The lifetime prevalence of sciatica is fairly high — 10-40% of people experience the problem at some point, though usually after the age of 20. Due to the high incidence of sciatica, pain management specialists have found many ways in which we can provide relief for this painful condition.
At Pain Medicine Consultants, our team understands all too well how sciatica can interfere with your life, making certain movements excruciating as pain shoots through your lower back and, often, into your leg.
While in most cases, sciatica does eventually resolve on its own, there are ways in which we can ease your journey toward pain-free movement, such as nerve blocks. Here’s a look.
The makings of sciatica
The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body and is responsible for most of the motor and sensory function in your lower extremities. This nerve is created by nerve roots that branch out from the lumbar and sacral regions of your spine. The nerve then splits into two and each branch travels down either side of your buttocks and into your legs.
Sciatica occurs when the nerve is compressed or irritated in your lower back, which can lead to symptoms that travel down along the length of the nerve, usually on just one side of your lower limbs.
The primary symptom is pain, but you may also experience numbness and tingling, as well as muscle weakness.
The usual suspect behind the nerve compression is a herniated lumbar disc, though other conditions can compromise the nerve, such as spinal stenosis, facet joint arthritis, or degenerative changes in your spine.
The road to relief for sciatica
In most cases, sciatica typically gets better in 4-6 weeks as your intervertebral disc heals and the inflammation subsides. During this time, there are steps that we can take to relieve the pain to allow you to move more freely.
While some people respond well to physical therapy and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, others can benefit from more aggressive pain-relief options, which includes a nerve block.
As the name suggests, a nerve block is a technique in which we target the nerve that delivers the pain signaling to your brain. Nerve blocks typically contain a local anesthetic and a steroid, which address both pain and inflammation.
To ensure that we target the correct area of your sciatic nerve, we might use fluoroscopy (live X-ray) to help guide the needle.
The nerve block takes us only minutes to administer, and you should experience near immediate relief. This relief can last up to two weeks, providing you with a reprieve from the pain during which we recommend that you address your sciatica through physical therapy for longer lasting results.
If you’d like to find out whether a nerve block can help you better weather your sciatica, please contact one of our offices in Pleasanton, Pleasant Hill, or Corte Madera, California, to schedule an appointment.