Sciatica is a common pain condition, affecting about 40% of people at some point during their life. Though the pain is severe for many, sciatica usually resolves on its own within a few weeks. So what can you do to manage sciatica pain?
At Orthopedic & Wellness, our experienced orthopedic and pain management physicians — Dr. Ojedapo Ojeyemi and Dr. Matthew Roh — have extensive experience treating sciatica. Here, we share with you what you can do at home to ease your sciatic nerve pain without medication.
Causes of sciatica
Sciatica is a nerve pain condition that occurs from compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. This nerve is made up of five nerve roots that exit from the lumbar and sacral spine, join together in the buttocks, and travel down the back of your leg on both sides of the body.
Pain may originate from any point along the path of the sciatic nerve, but it usually occurs at the exit point in the spine. Herniated discs, degenerative disc disease (DDD), and spinal stenosis are common spine conditions that cause sciatica pain.
Trauma to the spine or sciatic nerve may also cause this pain condition. Though rare, a neuromuscular condition called piriformis syndrome — a tightening or spasms of the piriformis muscle in the buttocks — may also irritate or compress the sciatic nerve.
Knowing your sciatica risk factors
Anyone can develop sciatica and experience pain. However, you’re more likely to develop the condition if you’re overweight, have a job that requires heavy lifting, or lead a sedentary life.
Having a previous back injury, specifically in the lower part of the spine, also increases your risk of developing sciatica. People with diabetes and osteoarthritis are also more likely to develop this type of lower back pain.
Poor core muscle strength is also a risk factor. Your core muscles include your abdominal and back muscles. Your lower back supports most of your upper body weight. Having weaker core muscles means your body is putting more stress on your lower back.
Managing sciatica pain
The pain of sciatica ranges from a mild ache to a sharp burning sensation. The pain may occur at any point along the path of the sciatic nerve, but it usually feels worse in the leg.
When you have sciatica pain, your instinct may be to rest. But resting for too long may make things worse. To manage your sciatica pain without medication we recommend:
- Cold packs to reduce pain and swelling for the first two days
- Heat packs to ease pain that lasts longer than three days
- Alternating between heat and cold packs
- Gentle low back stretches
- Daily walks, increasing your distance as your pain decreases
If your pain is severe or fails to improve after several weeks of at-home care, it’s time to get professional help. Our pain management experts can find the cause of your sciatica pain to direct your treatment, which may include medications, physical therapy, or interventional pain treatments like epidural injections.
In some cases, our spine surgeon may recommend surgery to correct the underlying cause of your pain. However, surgery is rarely necessary for sciatica pain.
To get help for your sciatica pain from our pain and spine experts, schedule an appointment today — we have offices in Frederick, Germantown, or Waldorf, Maryland — by calling or booking an appointment online.