The discomfort and pain of sciatica are impossible to miss. Sciatica can affect your posture and your gait, making it difficult to walk normally or run. It’s also common, with an estimated 40% of Americans dealing with sciatica at some point in their lives.
Fortunately, sciatica isn’t usually permanent, nor does it always require advanced therapies.
Edward Carden, MD, is an experienced pain management physician in Sherman Oaks, California, who has treated patients dealing with sciatica for years and understands the difficulty of navigating the pain and discomfort it brings.
He also knows that there are varying degrees of sciatica and that the best treatment may not be what you think.
How do you know you have sciatica?
For a proper diagnosis of any medical condition, it’s important to talk to your doctor. If your symptoms interfere with your daily life, seeking treatment can put you on track to feeling better.
Sciatica is no different in this respect — a visit to our office can help you understand the extent of your discomfort and how we can assist you.
Sciatica usually makes itself known by producing a sharp, stabbing, or burning pain that starts in your lower back and shoots down one leg. It doesn’t matter whether you feel the pain in your left leg or your right leg; sciatica tends to affect one leg at a time.
The pain of sciatica comes from pressure on or inflammation of the sciatic nerve, which stretches from your lower back through your buttocks and down into your legs.
While it might seem that sciatica is its own condition, the truth is that it’s actually a symptom of something else. Common causes of sciatica include, but aren’t limited to:
- Bad posture while weightlifting
- Bad posture in general
- Having a physically demanding job
- Back injuries
- Being overweight
More serious conditions that can cause sciatica include pregnancy, herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disorder. Osteoarthritis and tumors can also cause you to feel the pain of sciatica.
Can sciatica just go away?
The answer is yes — most cases resolve within six weeks from the onset of symptoms. Sciatica that lasts for three months or longer usually indicates the presence of an injury.
Despite this, sciatica rarely requires surgery. Surgery is usually reserved for extreme cases connected to a spinal disorder or injury.
If you’re experiencing pain in your lower back that extends to your leg, Dr. Carden reviews your medical history, asks about your symptoms, and gives you a physical exam. Your physical exam tests your ability to raise your leg, or stretch your leg to pinpoint your pain.
From there, Dr. Carden recommends an appropriate and effective treatment for your sciatica. His treatment recommendation could include over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication and gentle stretching, which effectively treat most cases of sciatica.
If conservative treatments don’t work, or your pain increases, Dr. Carden recommends stronger treatments, leaving invasive treatments as an absolute last resort.
Can you prevent sciatica?
Despite popular belief, sciatica is preventable. As with most medical issues, a balanced diet and regular exercise are the best starting points to prevent the symptoms of sciatica. Avoiding nicotine is also important, as it reduces the blood supply that nourishes your bones.
Exercise, in particular, is your best defense against sciatica. Exercises that strengthen your core and glutes are especially helpful.
To learn more about sciatica and how you might benefit from treatments with Dr. Carden, call our office or book online now.