If you are experiencing pain in the lower back or hip that radiates down into the buttock and back of the leg, possibly even to your feet, you may have sciatica. Sometimes the result of a pinched or inflamed nerve root or sciatic nerve root, sciatica can occur following an injury, muscular strain or herniated ("slipped") vertebral disc that presses on the nerve.
Fortunately, sciatica usually goes away on its own within a few weeks – only 10 to 25 percent of all cases last more than six weeks and 80 to 90 percent of all people with sciatica recover without surgery. Simple measures such as applying hot and cold packs, stretching exercises and a short course of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen can help with acute symptoms. Doctors may also prescribe a muscle relaxant or a stronger medication for pain lasting more than two to three months. If pain continues or worsens, an epidural steroid injection or even surgery may be recommended.
The best therapy for sciatica is prevention: maintain ideal body weight, engage in regular physical activity several times a week and avoid prolonged sitting as much as possible. If you are diagnosed with sciatica, Dr. Weil recommends these treatment options:
- Acupuncture: The National Institutes of Health recognizes acupuncture as an acceptable alternative to conventional therapies for low back pain.
- Bodywork: The Alexander Technique, Trager Approach, massage therapy and Feldenkrais Method can help overcome back pain.
- Therapeutic Yoga: Yoga can help relieve pain and protect against recurrences by strengthening your back. It also can balance nervous system function, promote flexibility and neutralize stress, all of which can help address the root cause or factors contributing to back pain.
- Osteopathic Manipulation: This system of manual treatment of the musculoskeletal system can be a highly effective therapy and usually requires only a few visits with a qualified practitioner (a Doctor of Osteopathy, or D.O.).
Learn more about these treatments, as well as mind-body approaches, in the Wellness Therapies section on DrWeil.com.
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