Sciatica is one of the most common (and most misunderstood) types of back pain. Upwards of 40% of people will develop this painful condition at some point during their life. Sadly, many of them will struggle to find an effective way to relieve their pain — and some will fail altogether.
We know there’s a better way to deal with back pain.
Dr. Raul Lopez at West Texas Pain Institute offers only the most advanced and minimally invasive treatments, like epidural injections, to help you finally walk away from back pain.
Where does sciatica come from?
Sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of your sciatic nerve. This nerve is among the largest in your body, branching from your lower back through the hips and buttocks and down each leg.
Whenever that nerve becomes pinched or irritated, most often by a herniated disc or overgrowth of bone, the resulting compression causes significant pain. Virtually anyone can get sciatica, but you’re most at risk if you:
- Are obese or overweight
- Have age-related changes in your spine
- Have a job that requires twisting
- Live a sedentary lifestyle
- Have diabetes
Pregnant women often experience sciatica in the later stages of their pregnancy as their growing baby puts more pressure on the sciatic nerve.
How do you know if you have sciatica?
Sciatica isn’t your run-of-the-mill backache. It comes with a unique set of symptoms that set it apart from regular back pain. For instance, sciatica typically affects only one side of your body. The pain also usually radiates from your lower back into other areas of your lower body, including your buttock and back of your leg.
Symptoms can vary from a mild ache to a sharp, burning sensation. Some report experiencing a jolt or electric shock of pain. You may notice that your symptoms get worse when you sneeze, cough, or sit for a long time. In other cases, sciatica triggers numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness in the affected leg or foot.
Mild sciatica may go away on its own eventually, but if conservative self-care measures prove ineffectual, you should see Dr. Lopez as soon as possible. Otherwise, you run the risk of permanent nerve damage.
How can epidural injections help?
Because sciatica stems from pressure on your nerve, we often begin treating it with epidural injections. That’s because epidural injections allow us to deliver powerful anti-inflammatory medication directly into the irritated, inflamed areas of your spine, namely the epidural space.
The epidural space is located between your vertebral wall and the dura mater membrane. Here you find fatty tissues and blood vessels. It’s also where injuries and diseases can cause painful inflammation and put pressure on your nerves.
Once injected, the medication effectively disrupts both the chemical and mechanical causes of your pain and mitigates your immunologic response to tissue damage. As the pressure on your nerve dissipates, so do your symptoms.
What happens during your appointment?
We provide epidural injections on an outpatient basis. That means you’re able to leave our office and rest at home immediately after your appointment.
From start to finish, the procedure usually only takes a few minutes. To prepare, you lie on your stomach or side, and Dr. Lopez injects a local anesthetic to keep you comfortable. With the help of a special X-ray called fluoroscopy, Dr. Lopez carefully guides the needle to the precise location for your injection.
You shouldn't experience any pain during the procedure, though some patients report a mild tingling sensation as the injection fluid enters the epidural area. It’s best to have a friend or family member drive you home afterward, and we recommend taking the rest of the day off.
Over the next couple of days, you’ll notice a significant reduction in pain, with the best results developing over the course of a few weeks.
Sound like epidural injections might be right for you? Don’t wait to find out for sure. Call or click to request an appointment at our El Paso, Texas, office today.