The sciatic nerve is the largest in the body and runs from the spinal cord through the hip area and down each leg. Sciatica refers to pain in the sciatic nerve. The pain can radiate all along the nerve or in certain areas of the nerve’s pathway such as the hip.
Symptoms of sciatic nerve pain in the hip can range from a tingling to a dull ache to a burning pain. The pain is normally felt on one side only and the leg of the affected hip may feel weak. Severe sciatic nerve pain in the hip can make walking difficult and relief may only be felt by lying down. A rare symptom is a loss of bladder or bowel function and medical treatment should be sought immediately if this occurs.
Common causes for a damaged sciatic nerve are pelvic injury or fracture, slipped disc, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis and tumors compressing the nerve.
When nerve pain is severe or lasts more than four weeks your doctor may order a cat scan or MRI to see what is affecting the sciatic nerve. A herniated disc or tumor can compress the sciatic nerve and cause pain in the hip and down the leg.
For sporadic sciatic nerve hip pain, hot and cold packs, stretching exercises and over the counter medicines such as Motrin or aspirin may be all you need. When these measures do not help, your doctor may recommend physical therapy. These exercises can strengthen muscles, improve posture and flexibility. Your doctor may prescribe an anti-inflammatory drug along with a muscle relaxant for short-term pain relief. Anti-convulsant drugs block pain signals from the brain and may also be prescribed.
When conservative treatments fail, your doctor may recommend other options. Epidural steroid injections are administered where your nerve pain is originating to reduce inflammation around the nerve. These injections are a short-term solution because of their side effects and only three injections may be given a year. Surgery is reserved for when bladder or bowel incontinence occurs or pain is not relieved by other measures and continues to worsen. Surgeons remove a portion of the disc that is pressing on the nerve.
Acupuncture may be used to alleviate sciatic nerve hip pain. Hair-thin needles are inserted into your skin to release energy flow and alleviate pain. Acupuncture is based on a belief that when our energy is blocked we experience pain and disease and needles inserted into certain areas in our bodies will unblock this energy. Chiropractic treatment is manipulation of the spine using different positions and degrees of force. Pain will decrease and function will improve by restoring spinal movement. Massage therapy may relieve pain in the back and hips. Consult your doctor before proceeding into these types of therapies.