Sciatica - Medications

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What effective OTC or prescription medications were helpful with your sciatica?

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What are treatment options for sciatica?

Bed rest has been traditionally advocated for the treatment of acute sciatica. But how useful is it?

To study the effectiveness of bed rest in patients with sciatica of sufficient severity to justify treatment with bed rest for two weeks, a research team in the Netherlands led by Dr. Patrick Vroomen randomly assigned 183 such patients to bed rest or, alternatively, to watchful waiting for this period.

To gauge the outcome, both primary and secondary measures were examined. The primary outcome measures were the global assessments of improvement after two and 12 weeks by the doctor and the patient. The secondary outcome measures were changes in functional status and in pain scores, absenteeism from work, and the need for surgical intervention. Neither the doctors who assessed the outcomes nor those involved in data entry and analysis were aware of the patients' treatment assignments.

The results, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that after two weeks, 64 of the 92 (70%) patients in the bed-rest group reported improvement, as compared with 59 of the 91 (65%) of the patients in the control (watchful-waiting) group. After 12 weeks, 87% of the patients in both groups reported improvement. The results of assessments of the intensity of pain, the aggravation of symptoms, and functional status revealed no significant differences between the two groups. The extent of absenteeism from work and rates of surgical intervention were similar in the two groups.

The researchers concluded that "among patients with symptoms and signs of a lumbosacral radicular syndrome, bed rest is not a more effective therapy than watchful waiting." Sometimes, conventional wisdom is not as wise as research!

Other treatment options for sciatica include addressing the underlying cause, medications to relieve pain and inflammation (including oral and injectable cortisone) and relax muscles, and physical therapy. A variety of low back conditioning and stretching exercises are employed to help people recover from sciatica. Surgical procedures can sometimes be required for persisting sciatica that is caused by nerve compression at the lower spine. Sometimes pain management specialists help with chronic sciatica conditions.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: JJ, 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: October 15

I have disc problems and fusions, so I have experienced very bad sciatica. Here is my best suggestion, make a traction device. I used a gallon milk jug, a 5 gallon bucket to hold and a 2 x 4 with a hole and a rope. Keep weight light. Lay back in a reclining chair, use a heating pad, and let the weight pull your legs. Last time it took 2 weeks on and off but steadily improved. Only way I could sleep at all. Ibuprofen does help also but you shouldn't take too much. Hope this helps, it is a very painful condition.

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Comment from: Julie, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: February 06

I have had lower back pain off and on for years. I have been on disability since 2007 due to chronic low back pain. I have been told I have sciatica due to a herniated disc. The pain just recently started to interrupt my sleep too much that I began physical therapy again and was prescribed Vicodin. I already take 3 other medicines for pain, in addition a muscle relaxer and a couple of others for headaches and allergies. I'm starting to feel as though I have a small pharmacy going. I've been told that I will always have the chronic pain, but depending on what I do as far as activity it will vary as to the severity. This time I was cleaning with the help of home care and was not stretching my legs as often as I should have, so the pain radiated into my hips and occasionally down into my knees. I'm not even 50 yet and this is really awful. I just dread getting older as I have always been fairly active until 2007 when the low back pain put a halt to my active lifestyle. Now, I just do what I can and I do fine with the physical therapy exercises for a couple months and then they seem to go off the grid for some reason.

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