Overwhelming Sciatica Pain -- How to Treat It

Sciatica pain, agonizing and mysterious, can show up seemingly out of the blue.

The pain travels from the sciatic nerves, starting in the lower spine, and runs down the length of one or sometimes both legs. Even though sciatica is not typically triggered by an injury there are risk factors. If your back is under constant strain, either from heavy lifting or sitting for extended periods, you could be more prone to sciatica. Diabetes can damage your nerves and smoking weakens the cartilage in your spinal discs—both create an opportunity for sciatica to develop. Is it really sciatica? Sciatica is not a condition, but a symptom of a pinched nerve in the spine. Here are some signs that point to sciatica:

  • pain in the back of the leg, up into the buttocks or hip

  • burning, tingling or numbness down the leg

  • lower back pain

  • pain that worsens when you cough, sneeze or sit too long

  • weakness in your leg that makes it hard to stand

Possible causes of sciatica

  • A bulging disc in the lumbar spine can press on the sciatic nerve and produce leg pain

  • Spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal, can create pressure on nerves near the vertebrae and cause cramping and sciatic pain

  • A tightened piriformis muscle deep in the pelvis can put pressure on the sciatic nerve and cause spasms that radiate down the leg. Runners and soccer players, for example, may experience a tight piriformis from overuse.

Self-help for sciatica

Pain medications, either over the counter or prescription, don’t do much for sciatica. Try these options for additional relief while you’re undergoing treatment:

  • If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your knees. For back sleepers, cradle the pillow behind your knee. Vary the pillow's height and position until you find where it relieves pressure on the nerve.

  • Treat the pain directly with 20 minutes of heat on the most painful spot, followed by 10 minutes with ice.

  • Rest, and avoid physical activity as much as possible.

Prevention I recommend 10 stretches to all my patients for maintaining a strong and stable back. These are the best prevention for sciatica. Even during treatment I recommend you do the 10 stretches, at least the ones that don’t cause you pain. Treatment Although sciatica pain can be constant or ebb and flow, by the time patients come to me it’s become constant. Don’t wait, this one tends to hang on without treatment. The typical timeline is six to eight weeks of therapies for recovery. My treatment works by decreasing inflammation, as well as reducing pressure on the sciatic nerve. I also focus on long-term results, such as improving spinal alignment and increasing range of motion. You’ll like that I incorporate rapid release vibration therapy into the program. It feels good while helping relieve the nerve pain, revving up blood circulation and taking pressure off the sciatic nerve. If you’re suffering with sciatica, you have my sympathies. But nothing good can come from trying to tough it out. Get in touch and let’s take care of it.

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