What will a hospital do for sciatica pain : 5 treatments

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Sciatica is shooting pain experienced in the lower back, buttocks, and legs. For 80 -90 percent of people suffering from sciatica pain, it goes away naturally, and full recovery is achieved within 2-months. The need to consult a doctor might arise if the pain is persistent. Most people question if they should visit the hospital for Sciatica pain. What will a hospital do for sciatica pain?

A hospital may ask a patient with sciatica pain to get admitted to an emergency room to provide immediate relief from a lot of pain and discomfort. 

The priority of most ER departments, though, is to give painkillers, so these visits are more about managing symptoms than getting a full treatment.

Read more about the condition and what treatment a hospital will offer for sciatica pain. 

What is sciatica pain?

It is a pain caused by inflammation or compression of the sciatica nerve in the lower back. The sciatic nerve is thick and the longest nerve in the body. Made up of five nerve roots, two from the lumbar spine and three from the sacrum, the final section of the spine. These together form the right and left sciatic nerves. Thus, on each side of your body, one nerve runs down from your hips and buttocks to your legs ending just below the knee. This nerve further branches into other nerves covering the rest of your leg and foot, spanning the toes. 

Any pain that originates in the lower back and goes across the leg is called “sciatica.” This pain is caused by the compression of the sciatica nerve and is thus called sciatica pain. 

Possible Treatments for sciatica – 

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The treatment for sciatica involves decreasing the pain and increasing the patient’s mobility. Here are some treatments that can be tried at home, followed by more professional options:

At-home treatments: 

  • Ice pack/hot massage: using an ice pack on the sciatic pain can help in reducing the pain and decrease the swelling. Apply the ice pack for 20 minutes every day at regular intervals. You can also try a hot massage using a hot water bottle, which soothes the muscles and provides comfort. 
  • Medication: Over-the-counter medication for pain relief can reduce inflammation and discomfort. Commonly used medication includes NSAIDs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, etc. Check for allergies or side effects you might develop due to the medication. 
  • Low-impact stretches: With help from an instructor, you can try gentle stretches for your lower pain, easing any pain. If it helps, you can move on to muscle strengthening and aerobic exercises. 

What will a hospital do for sciatica pain?

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A visit to the hospital is usually done in case of intense and sudden pain in the back or legs. Following are the treatment options done by a healthcare professional. 

  • Prescription medication

Your doctor might prescribe muscle relaxants such as cyclobenzaprine, commonly available as Amrix and Flexeril. It helps by reducing spam in the muscles. The medication’s dosage and frequency depend on the pain’s level and longevity. 

Physical therapy reduces sciatica pain by putting pressure on the nerve. Your doctor might develop an exercise routine comprising stretching exercises to make muscles more flexible and strengthening exercises such as swimming and aerobics. It helps strengthen the back, legs, and abdomen. 

Corticosteroid is an anti-inflammatory medication injected into the lower back to reduce pain. These injections provide relief for a short time which lasts up to 3 months. The doctor will determine your dosage and injection frequency by factoring in all your medical conditions. 

  • Professional therapy from a medical practitioner – 

This includes therapies from a chiropractor or acupuncture. These alternative methods are used more frequently and have a steady success rate in helping to manage the pain. 

Surgery is the last option considered only in rare cases. If all the treatments mentioned above fail and the pain worsens, your doctor might recommend a surgical procedure. If the symptoms have been persistent for over a year, and the pain hinders you in daily activities such as walking or sitting, a surgery that involves removing the pressure on the nerves and making the spine stable is considered. These include:

  1. Microdiscectomy: This involves removing fragments of a herniated disk that might be putting pressure on the nerve. 
  2. Laminectomy: This procedure involves removing the lamina, a part of the spinal canal that causes pressure on the sciatic nerve. 

The recovery time after the surgery is usually six weeks to three months. 

What is the intensity of sciatica pain?

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Patients often describe sciatica pain as a stabbing, electric, or burning pain. It can be sudden or constant in some cases. The pain is felt more severely on the leg than the lower back and worsens if you sit or stand for a long period or do activities that involve twisting your upper body. A sudden impact on the lower back or jolting movements such as coughing and sneezing can worsen the pain. 

Risk factors associated with sciatica

If you already have an injury in your lower back or spine, the pain might worsen, and it could be a high-risk situation for developing sciatica. 

bones and tissue naturally wear and tear as your body ages, which can increase the risk of nerves getting injured or pinched and developing sciatica pain. 

A person’s body weight is supported by their spine; it functions as a mechanism where the more the body weight, the more pressure on the spine to support it. If you suffer from obesity or are overweight, it might put undue pressure on your spine and lead to injuries or developing sciatica pain. 

Core muscles are the muscles comprising your back and abdomen. The stronger the core, the more support and less pressure on the spine. The rib cage supports weight in one’s chest, but it is the only muscle in the lower back. Hence, having a weak core might be a disadvantage for an individual with sciatic pain. 

  • A job that can physically strain your back – 

If your workplace requires you to do activities of the physical kind, such as lifting heavy materials or working in conditions that put a lot of pressure and stretch your back, you can be prone to sciatic pain. 

  • Jobs that require sitting for long hours –

A desk job that requires you to sit for 7-8 hours a day might end up harming your back and leading you to develop sciatic pain. Getting up from your chair and stretching your body regularly is a good tip. 

  • Wrong body posture while weightlifting –

Exercise can do more harm than good if done incorrectly, especially if it involves weightlifting. Working under a trainer or a partner while exercising using heavy weights is advisable to ensure a proper posture and minimize injuries. 

  • Sciatica in pregnant women –

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Sciatica is very common in pregnant women. Although it might seem that the increased weight in pregnant women is the cause of sciatica, it is due to the loosening of the ligaments due to hormones produced during pregnancy. Loosened ligaments make the spine unstable and can result in disk slips causing sciatica. The position and angle of the fetus, along with its weight, also contribute to the pressure on the sciatic nerve. 

Final takeaway –

Sciatica pain is treatable at home with ice packs and pain-relief medications. In cases of severe pain, you might visit the hospital. Your doctor might recommend corticosteroid injections or physical therapy, and surgery is the last resort if the symptoms don’t decrease for over a year.

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