With NHS resources at an all-time low and the average length of a GP appointment clocking in at under 10 minutes in the UK today, no matter how chronic the symptoms or intense the pain, it’s unlikely that your doctor has the time or resources to bring you anything beyond the cheapest of quick fixes for sciatic symptoms.
So, for one big blue skies moment, let’s set aside the notion of time and money (how refreshing would that be for the medical professional and their patients?) and consider the options that your GP might talk you through if he had the wherewithal to explore the full range of possible sciaticatreating solutions in depth.
Maybe have a quick read of this before your next trip to the surgery. That way, you can arrive informed ready to ask questions on the best steps for dealing with your own sciatica:
Option 1. Anti-inflammatory drugs
Affordablepain relief is often the go-to for doctors seeking to ease distress for their patients. Anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen are often suggested or prescribed to manage the pain involved in sciatica. Many of us wish to avoid the prolonged use of pain relief drugs as they can carry their own risks of complications and side effects.
Option 2. Steroid injections
Epidurals with steroids may be offered as a short-term solution for pain relief but they can be as painful as the sciatica itself.The long-term benefits remain unproven and the short-term side effects can include depigmentation around the area of injection as well as fat atrophy. This is a cosmetic depression in the skin which can bring with it soreness and tenderness as a result of the loss of padding from the fat.
Option 3. Heat
Although tempting to seek the relief of heat at the site of pain, use of hotwater bottles and heat pads carry their own risk of scalding the skin, especially if pain symptoms are causing numbness to the area. You won’t feel the burn.
Option 4. Ice
Similarly, ice packs may appear to offer the promise of reducing swelling to discs but often are impractical to apply to the key areas of pain, can burn your skin and be generally ineffective.
Option 5. Get physical
Working on strength and conditioning to build your core can be a highly effective route to pain relief. However, if you’re already experiencing extreme discomfort this can be hard to achieve and problematic if you don’t know the correct exercises to do.You could pay for private physiotherapy or a personal trainer with experience in working with sciatica sufferers but this has a cost attached and will rarely be offered.
Option 6. Go under the knife
For most medics referring you to surgery will be a last resort when it is necessary for the surgeon to work on what is pushing on the sciatic nerve and causing your painful symptoms. This can be to remove all or parts of a herniated disc and although compared to some surgery is relatively minimally invasive, it carries with it all the risk of surgery, the inconvenience of time off work and time spent in recovery. You may not be a suitable candidate for an operation.
6. Shockwave therapy (ESWT)
Sciaticalm is a small device which has been shown to relieve pain quickly and inexpensively. It offers extracorporteal shockwave therapy that you can control yourself and is safe and free from side effects. Small, flexible and easy to use at home or work, thousands of customers report how helpful it is for chronic pain relief.
So what next? Are there ways you can help yourself to support your recovery and ease your symptoms?
Next week: Stretch the possibilities – discover the top 3 best exercises for sciatica.