Acute sciatica — symptoms and treatment options

Acute sciatica occurs when the collection of symptoms known as sciatica come on suddenly, resulting in potentially severe pain. The pain can be debilitating and can keep you from performing everyday activities or even getting out of bed. Acute sciatica is usually contrasted with chronic sciatica, which is diagnosed if episodes begin to occur persistently for three months or longer.

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body, running from the lower back and down each leg. When this nerve becomes compressed, the group of potential symptoms that can result is called sciatica. Acute sciatica may be brought on by sprains to soft tissues like muscles and tendons, but it can also be the result of degeneration in spinal anatomy, including herniated discs, bulging discs, degenerative disc disease or foraminal stenosis.

Symptoms of acute sciatica

Sciatica is a term for a set of specific symptoms occurring due to compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. This condition is usually characterized by:

  • Pain accompanied by tingling or numbness
  • Pain that radiates from the lower back through the buttocks or down the back of one leg or calf
  • Increased pain while standing or sitting, sometimes severe enough to prevent standing and sitting entirely

Prevention and treatment

Acute sciatica often resolves on its own in a relatively short amount of time. However, since the condition can be extremely painful while it lasts, most people prefer to prevent it from occurring, if at all possible. Some prevention strategies include:

  • Staying active. Daily walking or other low-impact exercise will help stretch the spine and keep the soft tissues in the spine and back healthy.
  • Being aware of posture. Bad posture can result in back injuries that bring on an attack of sciatica. Be sure to sit or stand straight, with weight evenly distributed on both hips while sitting and both feet while standing. Shoulders should be down and relaxed, the head held high and looking straight ahead.

If an episode of acute sciatica does occur, some treatment options include rest, anti-inflammatory medications, spinal injection and massage therapy. Some patients also attempt alternative medical treatments, such as chiropractic work, ultrasound, TENS or acupuncture. If you are experiencing acute or chronic sciatica resulting from a diagnosed spinal condition, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures, offering our patients a shorter recovery time^ and less risk of complication.

Our dedicated team can help you receive a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.

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