Updated: Jan 24
Sciatica pain can be experienced differently depending on the underlying cause and which nerves are affected. One of the symptoms of sciatica pain is back and leg pain from the lower back and down one or both legs. Your leg muscles may feel weak, and your lower back might be tender to touch. Sciatica pain often feels like you've pulled a muscle or it's difficult to stand up straight because of the pain in your back and leg muscles.
What is Sciatic Pain?
Sciatica pain is the compression of one or more spinal nerve roots in your lower back. The pain typically radiates down one leg, although it can also extend to both legs or into other areas, such as your hip, buttocks, and even your foot. Most people with sciatic pain will feel it in their buttock and hamstring (the muscles behind your thigh). The pain can be sharp or achy; it may also tingle, burn or feel numb.
The first step in identifying sciatic pain is getting a diagnosis from your doctor. You'll need an MRI and possibly X-rays to figure out if you have arthritis or a herniated disc—two of the most common causes of sciatic pain. If you're experiencing nerve pain that spreads into your legs, see your primary care physician or neurosurgeon for further evaluation. Your doc will likely recommend physiotherapy and prescription medication. The goal: Remove pressure from nerves and reduce inflammation to relieve symptoms.
First, if you're experiencing sciatic pain, it's essential to identify and treat any underlying issues. Once you've tackled these initial steps, additional self-care options are available: You can practice gentle stretching exercises that may help loosen tight muscles and alleviate soreness. Below are some sciatica pain treatment options to get sciatica relief.
Wear Good Shoes
Your shoes should have a small amount of space between your toes and your shoes when standing up straight. When standing with your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart, there should be about two finger-widths of space between them and your shoes. Both cases are good indicators that you're wearing appropriate footwear for your body. If you stand with a greater width between your feet, you may need new insoles or arch supports during physical activity.
Do Strengthening Exercises
A common cause of sciatic pain is a weakness in your hip muscles. Exercises that target these muscles can help strengthen them and decrease strain on your back. Hip abduction, or moving your leg outwards from your body, is a particularly effective exercise.
Try to lie on your side with one leg straight and one bent at a 90-degree angle. Lift both legs together for a count of five seconds before lowering them again slowly to complete one rep.
Use Ice Packs
If you suffer from sciatic pain, try icing your lower back and buttock muscles. Icing reduces inflammation and numbs sore muscles, which can help relieve pain. Try placing an ice pack on top of a towel or clothing for 20 minutes at a time; do it three times per day for quick relief. If you don't have an ice pack handy, fill a gallon-size freezer bag with 1/2 cup water and freeze for about 30 minutes.
If there is nerve pain, muscle spasms, or other soft tissue problems, medications like gabapentin (Neurontin) can be effective. If you also have back pain, prescription medication will usually include opioid-like hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin), codeine, or fentanyl (Duragesic). Acetaminophen (Tylenol) for milder cases.
Rest Up Properly
Take time to rest and give your body time to heal itself. Your body repairs muscles and cartilage, strengthens bones, increases blood flow, and reduces pain during rest. That's why it's important to avoid overexerting yourself; if you try too hard to push through pain or exhaustion, you could make your symptoms worse.
Some medical experts suggest that surgery can be an effective sciatica pain treatment. If you have a herniated disc, one of your options is to have it removed. While there are no guarantees that surgery will help relieve your pain, experts point out that it can provide relief in some cases. Herniated discs are treated with a microdiscectomy, which involves removing part of a damaged disc by making an incision in your back.
Relieving sciatic nerve pain is best done with chiropractic care. Chiropractors diagnose can treat people suffering from back, neck, and joint pain and adjust your body's structure to help alleviate pressure on nerves causing discomfort. If you suffer from sciatic nerve pain, it may be time to consult with a chiropractor who has experienced relieving low back pain. In addition, it's vital to pinpoint the cause of discomfort as soon as possible since long-term issues can damage your spine over time if not addressed.