Nerve pain is some of the most unbearable pain there is, especially when it can only be managed and not cured. If you sustained permanent nerve damage while in the course of your job duties, the Delaware workers’ compensation attorneys at Silverman, McDonald & Friedman can help. Contact us in Wilmington, Newark, or Seaford to learn more.
For many workers, sciatica is a source of chronic pain. Employees with sciatica regularly need to take time off from work to treat sciatica. In some cases, surgery may help. In most cases, extensive physical therapy is required. When employees do return to work, many need to work with job restrictions so they don’t aggravate their sciatica.
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What is sciatica?
Sciatica is excruciating pain that travels along your sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve, according to the Mayo Clinic, extends from your lower back through your hips and buttocks down to your leg. Normally, people only experience sciatica on one side of their body. Sciatica often occurs when a “herniated disk, bone spur on the spine or narrowing of the spine (spinal stenosis) compresses part of the nerve.” The compression causes pain, inflammation, and possibly some numbness in the leg that’s affected.
Sciatica often can be treated with non-surgical treatments over the course of a few weeks. If the sciatica causes bladder or bowel difficulty, the worker may require surgery.
What are some of the signs of sciatica?
The trademark sign of sciatic is pain that radiates from your lumbar spine through your buttock to the back of your thigh and calf. The pain can vary. The pain may be mild. You may feel a “sharp, burning sensation.” The pain feels like a “jolt or electric shock.” Sciatic pain can feel worse if you sneeze or cough. Sitting for a long time can make sciatica feel worse. Other symptoms include tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness.
You should see your family doctor if:
- The pain doesn’t improve on its own
- The sciatic pain is due to a violent force such as workplace accident
- You can’t control your bladder or bowels
What are the causes of sciatica?
Sciatica is often the result of a pinched nerve caused by a herniated disc in your spine or a bone spur on your vertebra. Diabetes may also cause sciatica.
You’re more likely to develop sciatica:
- As you age
- If you’re overweight
- You work in a job that, according to the Mayo Clinic, requires that you “twist your back, carry heavy loads or drive a motor vehicle for long periods”
- You have a sedentary job
Sciatica, if not treated properly and timely, can cause permanent nerve damage.
How do doctors diagnose sciatica?
Doctors will normally ask you to perform different tasks to determine the scope of your pain. These tasks include:
- Walking on your heels or toes
- Getting up from a squatting position
- Lifting your legs, one at a time, while you’re on your back
- Muscle strength and reflex tests
Physicians may use the following image tests:
- X-rays. These tests are used to see if you have a bone overgrowth (bone spur) that may be pressing on one of your nerves.
- These tests use a magnet and radio waves to determine if you have a herniated disc.
- CT myelograms. This test involves injecting a dye into your spinal canal before using an X-ray. The lab technician then observes your spinal cord and spinal nerves.
- Electromyography (EMG). This test uses electrical impulses to “confirm nerve compression caused by herniated disks or narrowing of your spinal canal (spinal stenosis).”
What are the treatments for sciatica?
Medications that are used to treat sciatica include:
- Muscle relaxants
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Anti-seizure medications
Physical therapy involves exercises to try to strengthen your muscles, improve your flexibility, and correct your posture.
Steroid injections which use corticosteroid medications may be targeted the affected nerve roots.” “Corticosteroids help reduce pain by suppressing inflammation around the irritated nerve. The effects usually wear off in a few months. The number of steroid injections you can receive is limited because the risk of serious side effects increases when the injections occur too frequently.”
If surgery is the only option left, the doctors will “remove the bone spur or the portion of the herniated disk that's pressing on the pinched nerve.”
Many sciatica patients find that acupuncture or chiropractic care helps with the pain, along with a regimen of stretching. You should ask your doctor about what kinds of stretches are best for alleviating the pain.
How can you reduce your risk of sciatica?
Some of the ways workers can reduce the risk of developing sciatica include:
- Regular exercise. It helps to do exercises that keep your back strong. Exercise should help “the muscles in your abdomen and lower back that are essential for proper posture and alignment.”
- Keep good posture when you’re sitting. Your chair should support your lower back, have armrests, and a “swivel base.” You can use a pillow or towel in the small of your back to help keep the curve in your back level. Your knees and hips should be level.
- Focus on good body mechanics. Use your lower extremities instead of your back to lift things. Keep loads close to you body. Don’t twist and lift and that the same time. Find people or equipment to help you lift and move items.
How does work cause or exacerbate sciatica?
Sciatica may be due to an acute work injury such as a vehicle accident, or wrenching your back while lifting a heavy object. Sciatica may also be due to months or years doing physical activity that causes your back to twist, turn, or to be under any pressure.
We file Delaware workers’ compensation if your sciatica is due to a singular event such as an accident, or continual stress over time.
At Silverman, McDonald & Friedman, our Delaware workers’ compensation lawyers know how frustrating and difficult it can be to work if you have sciatica. Even when you finish your treatments, you can never be sure whether you’re going to have another episode. We work to obtain all the lost wages you’re entitled to and to ensure all your medical bills are paid – even chiropractic and acupuncture bills. To discuss your right to claim workers’ compensation benefits due to sciatica, call us at 302.888.2900 or fill out our contact form to speak with our offices in Wilmington, Newark, and Seaford.
Attorney Jeffrey S. Friedman joined Silverman, McDonald & Friedman in 2001. He graduated from Widener University School of Law, and is admitted to practice law in Delaware and Pennsylvania, and in several Federal Circuit courts. He areas of concentration include auto accident and workers’ compensation cases. Read more about Attorney Friedman here.