Sciatica Pain Relief
Anticonvulsants are drugs that are primarily used to treat seizures and may be useful in treating certain types of nerve pain. Anticonvulsants may also be prescribed with analgesics.
Antidepressants -- particularly tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline and desipramine -- have been shown to provide sciatica pain relief (independent of their effect on depression) and assist with sleep. Antidepressants alter levels of brain chemicals to elevate mood and dull pain signals. Many of the new antidepressants, such as the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are being studied for their effectiveness in pain relief.
Opioids, such as codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine, are often prescribed to manage severe acute and chronic back pain, but should only be used for a short period of time and under a physician's supervision. Side effects of opioids can include:
- Decreased reaction time
- Impaired judgment
- Potential for addiction.
Many specialists are convinced that chronic use of these drugs is detrimental to the person with back pain, adding to depression and even increasing pain.
Exercises and/or physical therapy may be recommended to maintain motion of the spine, strengthen abdominal and back muscles, and build endurance, all of which help stabilize the spine. Some people may be encouraged to try slowly progressive aerobic activity, such as swimming or using exercise bicycles.
In the most serious cases, when the condition does not respond to other therapies, surgery may provide relief from sciatica pain caused by back problems or serious musculoskeletal injuries. While some surgical procedures may be performed in a doctor's office under local anesthesia, others require hospitalization. It may be months following surgery before the person is fully healed, and he or she may suffer permanent loss of flexibility. Since invasive back surgery is not always successful, it should be performed only in people with progressive neurologic disease or damage to the peripheral nerves.
(Click Lower Back Surgery for more information about the different surgical options available for relieving sciatica pain.)