The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the human body, is formed by several nerve roots that come from the spine. The sciatic nerve starts at the end of the spine, passes through the buttocks, the back of the thigh, and when it reaches the knee, divides between the tibial and common peroneal nerves, and reaches the feet. And it is during this entire journey that it can cause pain with a tingling sensation, tingling sensation, or electric shock.
When there is compression or inflammation of this nerve, there is sciatica, which causes symptoms such as severe pain in the lower back, gluteus, or legs, difficulty in keeping the spine erect, and pain when walking. In these cases, it is important to seek an orthopedist or physiotherapist so that he can guide the appropriate treatment.
To cure the inflamed sciatic nerve, the treatment indicated by the orthopedist or physiotherapist must be carried out, with medication, exercise, and sometimes physical therapy.
The main symptoms caused by inflammation of the sciatic nerve are:
- Pain in the lower back that radiates to the buttocks or one of the legs;
- Back pain that worsens when sitting;
- The sensation of electric shocks or burning in the buttocks or leg;
- Weakness in the leg on affected side;
- Tingling sensation in the leg.
Often these symptoms are associated with changes in the spine, such as herniated disc, spondylolisthesis or even spinal arthrosis. For this reason, when the first symptoms appear, it is very important to consult an orthopedist or a physiotherapist, so that tests can be carried out in the office and X-rays of the spine are performed to assess whether it has any changes that are compressing the sciatic nerve, giving rise to symptoms.
How to confirm if it’s sciatica
Diagnosis of sciatica can be made by an orthopedist or a physical therapist based on the signs and symptoms presented. The test that consists of proving the alteration of the sciatic nerve and can be done in the office is: lying on your back and lifting the stretched leg of the stretcher, if there is pain or tingling sensation, the test indicates sciatica compression. If there is a pain in the other leg, this indicates severe spinal changes, such as an extruded disc herniation, for example.
Imaging tests such as X-rays and MRIs can be helpful in evaluating the spine, helping to identify what is compressing the nerve. If the spine is healthy and unaltered, the cause of sciatica should be muscle or fascia only, and treatment is relatively simpler.
When there is a suspicion that the nerve is really damaged, which rarely happens, only in cases of serious accidents, it may be necessary to perform an electroneuromyogram, which is a test that assesses the functioning of the nerve itself.
How To Relieve Inflamed Sciatic Nerve
The treatment for sore or inflamed sciatic nerve can be done with the use of analgesics, anti-inflammatory drugs in the form of pills, ointments, use of heat packs, and physiotherapy with specific exercises. The options are:
Medicines indicated to combat sciatica can be Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, or stronger ones, derived from morphine such as Tramadol, but a muscle relaxant and Diazepam can also be indicated by the orthopedist. But a more natural way to combat pain is to take the vitamin B complex, as this improves the health of the body’s nerves.
Massage with moisturizing cream or essential oils is one of the best home treatment options for an inflamed sciatic nerve because it relieves pain and improves movement, because it relaxes the muscles of the back, legs and glutes, thus decreasing nerve compression, but they should preferably be performed by a massage therapist or physiotherapist and does not exclude the need for treatment in the clinic.
Rest makes the pain worse, as does staying in the same position for a long time, so light exercises are welcome. Initially, stretches that can be done with the person lying on their back and hugging their legs, for example, are recommended.
When the pain decreases in intensity, after the first week of physiotherapy, muscle strengthening exercises can be performed, such as: lying on your stomach, bending your knees and pressing a pillow between your legs and, to work your back and spine, lie on your stomach up, bend your knees and lift your hips and butt off the stretcher. These Clinical Pilates exercises are excellent options for curing sciatica because they strengthen the abdomen and spine. Strengthening the abdomen is a great trick to protect the spine.
In most cases, the treatment of inflammation or compression of the sciatic nerve involves performing physiotherapy sessions with devices that reduce pain and inflammation and performing strengthening and stretching exercises, and manual techniques to mobilize and stretch the affected leg, improving the blood supply of the sciatic nerve itself and normalize the tone of the muscles of the gluteus and leg.
In addition, it is also recommended to apply localized heat over the region to be treated and stretching to stretch and relieve nerve compression.
Sometimes, when these problems are associated with bad posture, the physiotherapist may also recommend a treatment called Global Postural Re-education – RPG, in which there is a correction of posture and stretching of the muscles responsible for the postural change.
During a sciatic attack, one should prefer anti-inflammatory foods such as salmon, garlic, onions, flaxseed, chia, and sesame. But it is also important to reduce the consumption of foods that increase inflammation in the body, which are mainly processed meats such as sausage, sausage, and bacon.
6. Alternative treatment
In addition, there are other options that can also complete the treatment, which includes having Acupuncture and Reflexology sessions to relieve pain and discomfort. Another possibility is osteopathy, which consists of techniques that stretch the muscles, pulling in a way to crack the joints, being a good way to treat scoliosis, hyperlordosis, and herniated discs, which are generally involved in the cause of sciatica.
7. Spinal surgery
It is reserved only for the most severe cases when there is a herniated disc that does not improve with all the treatments mentioned above. In this case, the surgeon may decide to remove the vertebral disc and glue one vertebra to the other, for example.
How to prevent the pain from coming back
To prevent a new attack of sciatica, you should:
- Do regular stretches that stretch your leg muscles and spine.
- Avoid a sedentary lifestyle and regularly practice activities such as walking, Pilates, or Water aerobics that strengthen and stretch your muscles;
- Try to maintain correct back posture even when sitting;
- Always be within the ideal weight;
- Always keep the abdomen strong to protect the spine.
Sciatic nerve pain happens when this nerve is compressed, which is common when the person has a herniated lumbar disc, especially between L4 or L5, tightness of the canal where the spinal cord passes, a misalignment of a vertebra, or when you have an increase in the tonus and firmness of the buttocks, for example.
Women who practice physical activity in the gym and whose buttocks are worked out can get sciatica because there was an increase in tone or, even, a contracture in the gluteus developed, more specifically in the piriformis muscle.
About 8% of the world population suffers from sciatica because nerve fibers pass through the piriformis muscle in them, and when it is very tense or with contracture, they compress the nerve, leading to pain in the form of numbness, shock, or tingling.
The inflamed sciatic nerve in pregnancy
During pregnancy, it is common for the sciatic nerve to be affected due to the rapid increase in weight, belly growth, and change in the woman’s center of gravity, which can lead to compression of this nerve. When this happens, the pregnant woman should seek a doctor or physiotherapist, to start the treatment and minimize the presented symptoms. Treatment can be done with stretching exercises, warm compresses, and anti-inflammatory ointments to apply to the pain site.