Using dexamethasone to treat sciatica
Introduction: Defining Terms
Dexamethasone is a specific type of chemical compound called a corticosteroid. Medically, they are used to treat a wide range of disorders and diseases, but dexamethasone primarily targets treatment of inflammation, and it especially targets the causes of inflammation. As such, it is utilized for a wide variety of issues — including ulcerative colitis, certain inflammatory skin conditions, lupus, arthritis and, possibly: sciatica.
Sciatica is basically a common symptom of a nerve disorder, such as a pinched nerve, that can be its own symptom of something else. It is typically characterized as foot and leg pain. Although usually temporary and self-healing, sciatica is a painful state and many medications exist to combat it, with the most common being non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers, such as over the counter medications like Ibuprofen.
Physical therapy may be included in the recovery process to alleviate the pain both through therapeutic exercise, and by discovering what movements are the least painful, or bring the most relief.
Sometimes, muscle relaxants and spinal injections are administered, especially for extremely painful cases of sciatica.
However, dexamethasone has recently been introduced as a possible candidate for anti-inflammatory pain relief in sciatica nerves.
Pros: Possible Benefits and Proof of Effectiveness
In a recent study presented by Rahangdale and Kendall, the use of dexamethasone was shown to improve motor blockage of foot and ankle surgeries to those with sciatica, although it did not seem to improve overall surgery recovery.
Oral steroids are often administered by physicians for severe cases of sciatica, and they seem to significantly reduce overall pain, although they do not reportedly hasten or improve the entire recovery process. Dexamethasone is also used regularly for lumbar herniated disks, and it seems to give almost instant relief of serious pain. A study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry in 2012 revealed that this specific use yields significant pain relief.
It works especially to reduce pain that is caused by inflammation — which is the case in herniated disks. Sciatica is not equivalent with inflammation, but that is often an aspect of the painful disorder.
Additionally, dexamethasone is often a part of a cocktail of anti inflammatories and corticosteroids that are used to combat sciatica, usually in injection form.
Cons: Possible Side Effects and Ineffectiveness
All drugs and medications have side effects; dexamethasone is no different. Because of its hormonal, steroidal, and anti-inflammatory properties, some potential and fairly common side effects of dexamethasone include: increased aggression, mood changes, anxiety, nervousness, and depression; weight gain; decrease in urine production; dizziness; numbness, irregular heartbeat; shortness of breath or rattly sounding breath; increase in appetite; and others. Less likely side effects include severe abdominal pain, trouble sleeping, and many others.
As well, dexamethasone does not seem to do a terrible amount better than other drugs of its kind. Perhaps as use of the drug continues, we will be able to see whether it is truly better than other corticosteroids in the treatment of sciatica.
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