Sharp, aching, burning, stinging: Sciatica pain can be described using a lot of different terms, but no matter which words you use, one thing’s for sure — you want to find relief as quickly as possible.
Sciatica happens when the long sciatic nerve is compressed or “pinched” where it exits your spine in your lower back. The nerve divides into two branches, with each branch traveling down a leg. Pain, aching, and numbness from sciatica can happen anywhere along that nerve, including your lower back, buttocks, and down your leg.
As a leading pain management specialist with offices in Carmel, Kokomo, and Indianapolis, Indiana, Jonathan Gentile, MD, is skilled in customizing treatment plans aimed at relieving the pain of sciatica — and improving your spine health, too.
Sciatica affects about 40% of Americans at some point during their lifetimes, and for some people, it’s a major cause of chronic pain. If you have sciatica, here are seven things you can do to find relief.
#1: Take an over-the-counter medicine
Non-steroidal antiinflammatory medicines, like ibuprofen and aspirin, help relieve pain and reduce inflammation around the nerve. Acetaminophen works differently to disrupt pain signals. Taking these medicines in moderation and as directed can help relieve pain and give your back a chance to recover.
#2: Use hot and cold therapy
Applying a heating pad or a warm compress to your lower back increases circulation and relaxes tense muscles. Using a cold compress or ice pack for 15-20 minutes at a time helps reduce inflammation that could be contributing to sciatic nerve compression. For maximum effects, alternate the two therapies.
#3: Look into physical therapy
A physical therapist will work with you to develop a plan of therapeutic exercise and stretching aimed at reducing inflammation, improving flexibility and strength, and relieving pain. Plus, your therapist can suggest simple modifications to your daily routines to support your back and prevent future flare-ups of sciatica symptoms.
#4: Get moving
Sitting a lot puts extra pressure on your lower back (especially if you slouch). If you sit a lot at work, at school, or at home, it’s important to get up and get moving on a regular basis. Exercise promotes healing circulation in your lower back, and it relaxes tense muscles, too.
#5: Drop the excess pounds
If you’re overweight and you suffer from chronic or recurrent sciatica, dropping those extra pounds can be just what you need to break the cycle of pain. Extra pounds put added strain on your lower back, and they also throw off your center of gravity. Losing weight helps normalize the natural position of your spine while decreasing extra pressure on your lower back.
#6: Do some stretching
Gentle stretches for your lower back, buttocks, and thighs are a good way to improve circulation and reduce inflammation in the area. Plus, stretching relaxes the tendons and ligaments in the area to minimize compression. Try these 10 sciatica stretches, and don’t overdo it.
#7: Lower your stress
Stress causes your muscles to “tense up,” increasing strain on your spine, and it can also decrease the amount of oxygen reaching your sciatic nerve. Together, these effects can increase or enhance pain signals, making your symptoms feel a lot worse. You don’t have to be a yoga master to reduce stress — deep breathing exercises are simple to learn and you can do them anywhere.
When to see the doctor
Sometimes, mild sciatica clears up on its own with a little TLC (and these seven tips). Other times, the pain gets worse or just won’t go away, despite your efforts.
Dr. Gentile specializes in pain management treatments aimed at relieving the nagging discomfort of sciatica and other back-related pain. If your sciatica pain is getting worse, won’t go away after a week or so, or keeps coming back, book an appointment online or over the phone today to learn how he can help you get the relief you’re looking for.