Sciatica is a common condition that is often misunderstood. Up to 40 percent of people get this painful nerve condition that stretches from the back of your pelvis to the back of your thigh. Your risk increases as you get older. This is why it is important to look into supplements for sciatica.
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Supplements for Sciatica
There is not a lot of research on the role of vitamins in helping to treat or slow the rate of sciatica in humans. In a study reported in the March 2016 issue of Brain Research Bulletin, rats were given vitamins C and E to treat cramped sciatic nerve.
The rats given the combination of vitamin C and vitamin E performed more favorably in treating the sciatic nerve than those given the individual vitamins. Together, the vitamins also improved the symptoms of those who were treated with Gabapentin, a drug used to treat nerve problems and pain including restless leg syndrome, according to Medline Plus.
A small study of 60 people in the August 2016 issue of the Middle East Journal of Internal Medicine showed vitamin B12 injections for people with lower back pain, including sciatica, seemed to help the pain. The authors concluded that longer-term studies with more participants are needed to determine if vitamin supplements for sciatica make a difference.
What Is Sciatica?
Sciatica is pain that occurs along your sciatic nerve, says the University of Rochester Medical Center. The sciatic nerve is a bundle of fibers that starts in your lower back area between L5, or the fifth segment of your lumbar spine and your tailbone, and extends along the back of your thigh to form a single nerve in front of the periformis muscle. It is the primary nerve in your leg and the body's largest nerve.
It often starts with a herniated or slipped disc in your spine that causes pain by pressing on your sciatic nerve. There are other causes, however, including obesity, poor posture, tumor, abscess, blood clot, poor sitting position or nerve disorder.
The pain from sciatica is often felt through one side of your buttock and extends through the back of your thigh. Sometimes, you can feel the pain all the way down your leg. In severe cases, you will feel numbness and weakness. Your doctor may need to perform tests to conclude whether sciatica is causing your pain.
Acupuncture and Sciatica
If you are looking for natural treatment for sciatica, acupuncture may be one. A September 2015 review of studies in the journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that acupuncture works better than medicine to relieve pain.
Acupuncture was found to activate pain-relieving endorphins by stimulating the sciatic nerve pressure point. According to the study, pressure points for sciatica were stimulated by surface pressure, needle insertion with or without manipulation, heating of acupuncture needles and laser stimulation.
The authors concluded that acupuncture would be a good treatment for sciatica pain, which can sometimes feel intense. The authors reviewed research that followed 1,842 people in 12 studies. They recommended more high-quality, long-term studies of acupuncture. There is no gold standard of effective treatment for sciatica, they said.
More About Sciatica
Sciatica is not just regular back pain, says Harvard Health. It can vary from a dull pain, numbness or tingling to feeling like electric shock, throbbing heat or stabbing pain. The pain can range from annoying to intense.
If you have a herniated disc that is causing the pain, it may be because your disc weakened over time, or a vertebra slipped forward, compressing your sciatic nerve, kind of like a kinked garden hose. This slipped disc, ruptured disc or pinched nerve can occur from injury or trauma, but more likely, it occurs because of years of bending and sitting for long periods.
Treatment options include acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and ice. Surgery is another option. A short-term course of steroids brought about some improved functioning, but not much pain relief, according to a study of 369 people outlined in the May 2015 issue of JAMA.
A Harvard Health article says that for three out of four people, the pain will improve over a few weeks. "Treatment focuses on controlling pain and keeping people as active as possible," wrote Dr. Steven J. Atlas. Lying down helps with excruciating pain, he said, but prolonged bed rest does not. If you think you have sciatica, you need to visit your doctor.
Is This an Emergency?
- Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: "The Efficacy of Acupuncture for the Treatment of Sciatica: "A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis"
- Brain Research Bulletin: "Systemic Administration of Vitamins C and E Attenuates Nociception Induced by Chronic Constriction Injury of the Sciatic Nerve in Rats
- Middle East Journal of Internal Medicine: "Update on the Use of Vitamin B12 in Management of Pain"
- University of Rochester Medical Center: "Sciatica"
- JAMA: "Oral Steroids for Acute Radiopathy due to a Herniated Lumbar Disk: A Randomized Clinical Trial"
- Harvard Health: "Sciatica: Of All the Nerve"
- Harvard Health: "Taming the Pain of Sciatica: For Most People, Time Heals and Less is More"
- Medline Plus: "Gabapentin"