Guide to Sciatica Pain and How to Manage It

As the thickest nerve in your body, your sciatic nerve plays a crucial role in helping your lower limbs move and feel. It has several roots in your lower back and bottom of your spine that flow through a series of musculoskeletal structures. When one of those structures pinches or places pressure on the nerve, you may notice an uncomfortable back pain that also runs down your leg. You may hear medical professionals refer to this as sciatica. 

While the condition is common, sciatica isn’t something you have to live with. With a series of multidisciplinary interventions and self-help techniques, you can combat sciatic nerve pain. Alongside making an appointment to address your pain, there are self-help methods you can use.

Common sciatica pain causes

As one of your sciatic nerve’s primary functions is to feed sensations back to your central nervous system (CNS), it’s sensitive to anything that rubs it or places pressure on it. As such, when you suffer from a slipped disc or a musculoskeletal structure rubbing against it, your brain perceives that event as being painful.

Slipped discs are usually the commonest cause of sciatica. A slipped disc usually occurs after lots of repeat movements that don’t protect your back — for example, lifting heavy objects with the wrong manual handling technique.

You can also experience sciatica when your spine narrows or if a spinal bone pushes out of place. Lower back injuries are another common cause. In a lot of cases, it’s unusual for one single event to result in sciatica. By the time the pain arises, you’ve probably spent months or years engaging in poor posturing or harmful repeat movements. 

How long does sciatica pain normally last?

An acute case of sciatica may last between one and six weeks. The most painful sensations are likely to last for one to two weeks, with some residual pain following. However, you may be able to reduce your symptoms and the amount of time your condition lasts with appropriate pain management. 

Tips for managing sciatica pain

There’s a lot you can do to help yourself when it comes to sciatic nerve pain. However, it’s also advisable to seek assistance from medical professionals. In many cases, a multidisciplinary approach achieves the dual benefits of reducing your pain and stopping it from happening again.

Sciatic pain self-help tips

There are certain stretches you can perform to treat your sciatic nerve pain. One is the piriformis stretch. Your piriformis is a muscle that runs from your lower spine through to your thigh bone. When it presses on your sciatic nerve, it causes sciatica. As such, stretching it at home may reduce some of your symptoms.

To stretch your piriformis muscle, lie flat on your back on the floor. Take your leg from the affected side and place the ankle just above the opposite knee. Place your hands behind the knee your ankle is resting on and pull your leg up off the floor and toward you. Hold the stretch for five seconds, then repeat. 

Managing sciatic pain at work

You can gain a lot of relief from sciatica by changing the way you spend your time at work. If you’re in a role that involves sitting at a desk a lot, ensure your chair provides the right type of lumbar support. You should also get up and walk around at least every hour to provide your lower back muscles with some natural movement. If you engage in any type of lifting and carrying, make sure your employer offers you some manual handling training, and follow the techniques they suggest. 

Professional sciatic pain management

Alongside trying self-help techniques, it’s worth seeking advice from a professional. A range of approaches can be used to reduce your pain and stop it from occurring again. This may include physiotherapy and medications. A professional can also help identify the physical cause of your pain, which may assist you in making appropriate lifestyle changes.

Advice for preventing sciatica pain

Moving forward, there are some areas of your life you can address to lessen sciatica pain. Whether you work at an office, from home, or in a labor-intensive job, assess your posture to see if it’s compromising your lower back and spine. People who smoke are more likely to experience sciatica, so quitting is well worth your while. You should always try some exercise that’s within your comfort zone, and if you’re overweight, then now’s a good time to lose some.

Sciatic pain is undeniably uncomfortable. However, with a range of self-help techniques and professional interventions, you can lessen yours and keep it at bay. To get more help for your sciatica pain, reach out to our team at Carolinas Pain.