Living With Sciatica: It's Possible

Sciatica is a condition that affects the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in the body. The condition causes pain in the nerve and often results in back, hip, and leg pain.

Typically, sciatica is caused by spinal problems that pinch and compress the affected nerve. These can include a herniated disc, bone spur, or a narrowing of the spine known as spinal stenosis. While both sides of the body can be affected, the majority of patients only experience pain on one side. Sciatica can be acute or chronic. Acute cases usually last two to three months and can be managed with home treatment. Chronic sciatica can be a lifelong condition that may lead to permanent feelings of weakness or numbness in the legs. This form of the condition may require strong medications or surgery for symptom control. To diagnose both forms of sciatica, doctors begin with a history and physical examination. Occasionally, x-rays, MRI scans, or nerve conduction studies may be required for confirmation of the diagnosis. Treatment typically begins conservatively, using gentle exercise, ice packs, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory medication. Massage, chiropractic care, and acupuncture may also be incorporated. In severe cases, steroids can be administered via epidural for pain relief. Managing sciatica can be expensive. Let's examine some ways to make it more cost-effective.

10 Steps to Reduce The Cost of Sciatica Treatment

  1. Compare prices for home remedies, furnishings, medication, and medical tests.
  2. Shop both locally and online to obtain the lowest price.
  3. Try home care measures first before opting for expensive prescriptions or services.
  4. Choose store-brand over-the-counter medicine to cut costs.
  5. Consider using generic prescription pain relievers if possible.
  6. Look into patient assistance programs for help with prescription costs.
  7. Ask healthcare providers about available financial assistance and cost-saving options.
  8. Compare prices for tests and medication both with and without insurance.
  9. Perform physical therapy exercises and self-massage as directed.
  10. Limit the frequency of massage and other office visits if possible.

The 10 Steps Explained

Patients struggling with acute and chronic sciatica often find some relief through regular use of simple, properly applied home remedies. Use of both ice and heat can soothe pain, and patients can alternate between ice and heat as needed. Local pharmacies and online stores offer a wide selection of reusable gel-based packs that can be microwaved or frozen for symptom relief. Doctors recommend that both ice and heat packs be used for no longer than twenty minutes at a time to prevent burns. Reflexology balls, massaging chairs, and acupressure mats may help loosen muscles. These are available at home stores and online. Major retailers usually offer discounts when buying multiples at a time.

Making ergonomic adjustments to home furnishings such as chairs, tables, beds, and mattresses can support a healthy recovery from sciatica. Patients may wish to try several brands and models of various furniture before purchasing, and this is particularly necessary with mattresses. To find a comfortable fit, it is often easiest for patients to try furniture in-person at local or nearby stores. Some innovative mattress companies only sell their products online. Fortunately, the majority of them offer generous free trial and return policies. For example, most frequently allow customers to try a mattress for at least 30 days in their own home entirely free of charge.

Depending on the severity of a patient's sciatica pain, over-the-counter medications may be sufficient for pain relief. These medicines are available from nationally recognized brands, and some pharmacies also have their own lower-priced versions of the same drugs. If prescription pain relievers are needed, patients should go online to compare prices in their area and may wish to consider using generic medicine to save money.

Many patients with sciatica regularly see physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, and acupuncturists to manage their symptoms. If money is an issue, many areas often have multiple providers for these services, and it can help to search around before deciding on a provider. Some providers may be able to offer lower-cost care to those who are uninsured or on fixed incomes. Often, providers will show patients how to do self-massage and certain physical therapy exercises at home, cutting down on the number of office visits that may be needed.

MRI scans and other advanced tests such as nerve conduction studies may be used to diagnose or monitor sciatica. If these tests are ordered, patients should know that they can compare prices for medical tests online and find the cheapest price in their area. Patients should also ask their doctor about whether a cheaper test may be used.

Trying a combination of these suggestions can help patients manage both their sciatica and their treatment costs effectively.