Our previous posts have documented the success of Physical Therapy treatments on sciatica, radiating pain down the back of leg, compared to other conservative treatments and surgery. Specifically, no differences have been noted between surgery and PT at long term follow up. Another medical intervention for sciatica includes non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These are one the most common medications prescribed for sciatica and a recent study sheds light on their lack of effectiveness of this condition.
Authors in the Spine Journal updated a review article including all research papers documenting the effectiveness of NSAIDs on patients with sciatica (Rasmussen-Barr et al. 2017). The authors included 10 papers including 1651 patients with sciatica who were prescribed NSAIDs for their symptoms. The authors found minimal support for the use of NSAIDs for symptoms of sciatica and some evidence showing the effects on NSAIDs were equal to the placebo pill condition. The authors also described the higher rates of adverse effects in patients taking NSAIDs over a placebo pill.
These minimal benefits and higher risks must be considered when utilizing NSAIDs for sciatica symptoms. Patients are encouraged to meet with their local PT for the effective treatment of sciatica symptoms.