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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Sciatica is a condition that causes pain along your sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve runs from your spine through both sides of your buttocks. It then runs down the back of your thigh, into your lower leg and foot. Your sciatic nerve may be compressed, inflamed, irritated, or stretched.
- NSAIDs: These medicines decrease swelling and pain. NSAIDs are available without a doctor's order. Ask your healthcare provider which medicine is right for you. Ask how much to take and when to take it. Take as directed. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems if not taken correctly.
- Acetaminophen: This medicine decreases pain. Acetaminophen is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and when to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
- Muscle relaxers help decrease pain and muscle spasms.
- Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
Manage your symptoms:
- Activity: Decrease your activity. Do not lift heavy objects or twist your back for at least 6 weeks. Slowly return to your usual activity.
- Ice: Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on your low back or leg for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed.
- Heat: Heat helps decrease pain and muscle spasms. Apply heat on the area for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed.
- Physical therapy: You may need to see a physical therapist to teach you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain. An occupational therapist teaches you skills to help with your daily activities.
- Use assistive devices if directed: You may need to wear back support, such as a back brace. You may need crutches, a cane, or a walker to decrease stress on your lower back and leg muscles. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about assistive devices and how to use them correctly.
- Avoid pressure on your back and legs: Do not lift heavy objects, or stand or sit for long periods of time.
- Lift objects safely: Keep your back straight and bend your knees when you pick up an object. Do not bend or twist your back when you lift.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh. Ask him to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight.
- Exercise: Ask your healthcare provider about the best stretching, warmup, and exercise plan for you.
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- You have pain in your lower back at night or when resting.
- You have pain in your lower back with numbness below the knee.
- You have weakness in one leg only.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Seek care immediately or call 911 if:
- You have trouble holding back your urine or bowel movements.
- You have weakness in both legs.
- You have numbness in your groin or buttocks.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.