sciatica pain relief – how to prevent or treat sciatica pain

SCIATICA PAIN: RELIEF FOR YOUR ACHING BACK

If you have pain extending from your lower back and down through one or both your legs, you may suffer from sciatic pain.  The sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in your body, which starts in the lumbar area of your back at the lower end of the spinal cord.  From there, it branches out through each side of the pelvis, down each buttock, and continuing down the back of each leg to both feet. The sciatic nerve provides feeling and control for your lower extremities.

Someone who experiences sciatic pain usually feels like their leg is “asleep” (numb) or a “pins and needles feeling” (tingling).  The pain felt may be a burning or aching that is intermittent or incessant. Sciatica pain is rarely felt in both legs, but it does occasionally occur.  Some people may only experience sciatic pain sporadically, while others may endure a constant, incapacitating pain.

WHAT CAUSES SCIATIC PAIN

Sciatica pain usually results from the sciatic nerve or nerve roots becoming irritated or pinched — whether from an injury, or slowly developing over time.  Prolonged periods of sitting or standing will aggravate sciatic pain. Lifting something may also increase your pain. Even something so simple as sneezing or coughing has been known to increase the pain felt with sciatica.

The most common causes of sciatica are:

herniated disc– a disc in the lower back that is compressing the nerve or nerve roots. It usually occurs suddenly, causing extreme pain, or it can develop gradually.

spinal stenosis–a narrowing of the spaces in the spinal column. It can cause sciatica if located in the lower back area.

osteoarthritis of the spine–bits of cartilage break off and float around in the spinal joints, causing irritation, inflammation, and sciatica pain if it occurs in the lower back region.

spondylolisthesis–a slipping and rubbing of one vertabra over another. This misalignment can cause sciatica.

Piriformis syndrome–where the pyriformis muscle in the buttocks contracts and irritates the sciatic nerve. The pain will start in the buttocks and travel down the leg. Treatment for piriformis is accomplished by stretching exercises, therapeutic massage and anti-inflammatory medications.

While some people who experience sciatica pain usually find it disappears on its own with rest, others may need treatment for their symptoms.

sciatica pain relief

SCIATICA PAIN TREATMENT

Your sciatic nerve pain treatment should start with non-prescription NSAIDs (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen (Motrin) or naproxen sodium (Aleve). If you see a physician for sciatica pain relief, they may even give you a prescription for stronger pain relievers and/or muscle relaxers.

Try a hot or cold pack for about 20 minutes every two hours for symptom relief. Alternating between an ice pack and a hot compress can also help.  I find that heat, especially from a heating pad, works well.

I also suggest sitting or  lying down on a firm surface for sciatic pain relief. Doing so can help reduce the strain and pressure on your lower back muscles and sciatic nerve. Spinal traction may be beneficial if simple compression is to blame. Make sure to consult a physician before attempting this though.

If this treatment plan doesn’t work for you, seek out a medical doctor for help.  The physician may suggest a corticosteroid injection into the inflamed area surrounding the nerve.  Relief  following steroid injection varies according to what is actually causing the pain.  Some people with severe pain may find no relief whatsoever from a steroid injection.

There are also a few alternative treatments you may consider trying before seeking a medical professional for surgery.  The following are good for sciatica pain relief:

Chiropractic — manual manipulation may help if your pain is caused by a nerve being pinched.

Acupuncture — the National Inst. of Health has recognized this as effective for all kinds of back pain.

Massage therapy — this is good to try if you think your pain is due to tightened or strained muscles.

If you ARE able to find relief following these sciatica pain treatment methods, I suggest immediately beginning a regimen of daily sciatica stretches and sciatica nerve exercises to help either minimize your sciatic pain or quite possibly alleviate it altogether. Keeping your back muscles strong and flexible can also go a long way toward preventing sciatica from occurring in the first place.

WHEN TO SEEK SURGERY FOR YOUR SCIATIC PAIN

You should seek the care of a medical professional if you are in acute, severe pain condition and have not obtained any relief from all nonsurgical alternatives, or if you are experiencing continued deterioration of your health, such as bladder or bowel problems.

The good news is that sciatic pain frequently gets better on its own using a combination of methods mentioned in this article without resorting to surgery. Hopefully you find the relief for your pain here.

1 thought on “sciatica pain relief – how to prevent or treat sciatica pain

  1. Hi there and good and very sensible article about sciatica.
    I tend to pretty much agree with what you have had to say about sciatica, and it is good to see that you recommend a sensible exercise programme of stretching and strengthening, I couldn’t agree more.
    If I may just add one or two things though, the recommendation of starting Anti-Inflammatories is definitely something I recommend straight away, but only if the pain is inflammatory in nature. How I tend to distinguish between the inflammatory type pain and a more mechanical type pain is that the former tends to be a constant intense pain which is very easily aggravated, even the simplest of movements will flare the pain up and it will take some time to settle. If this sounds familiar, then anti-inflammatories would definitely be recommended (as long as they are not contra-indicated for you to take). The latter on the other hand tends to be more of an on/off pain, depending upon the activities or postures you are performing.
    As a rule of thumb, lying would probably be better than sitting (but not necessarily for everyone) and lying on one side with your bottom leg straight and top leg slightly bent and supported by a couple of pillows is often the best position when the pain is quite severe.
    Ultimately, and particularly in the early acute stages of sciatica, listen to your body. If you are doing something which aggravates your pain, it is because your body does not like it, therefore look for an alternative posture/activity.
    I would like to think that a steroid injection would be a little bit down the line of treatment plans. You are right, their success is varied and does depend upon the cause, namely if the cause is not being addressed by the steroid injection, then at best any relief will only be temporary and definitely no long term benefit will be gained
    Knowing what to do, and equally importantly what not to do is vitally important
    Finally, even if the sciatica pain does resolve on its own (which many do) it is still important to look at a stretching and strengthening exercise programme. As even though the pain has resolved, the underlying cause may still be present, and if it is, another bout of sciatica may not be too far away!
    Anyway, apologies for going on a bit, but once again thanks for the article, I liked it.
    Paul Boxcer.
    Spinal Health Care

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