Sciatica is a painful condition caused by a pinched nerve in your lower back. Although the pinched nerve is on either side of the spine, the most painful part is in your legs, where the nerves run. Sometimes, the pain isn’t severe at all, but often, experts say, it’s unbearable.
Sciatica is most often caused by a herniated disk. A herniated disk happens when a disk tears or cracks and then protrudes into the spinal canal. That can pinch the sciatic nerve. For most people, the pain will last about six weeks, but for others, it lasts longer.
How is Sciatica Treated?
Lucky for you, there are several ways to alleviate the pain:
- Chiropractic care – Studies have shown that visiting a chiropractor can help your pain. It’s recommended that you see a chiropractor three times a week for four weeks, then reduce your visits as you feel better.
- Acupuncture – Using a needle to stimulate parts of your body and areas of pain can help to alleviate sciatica. Medical professionals who recommend the treatment say you will likely feel relief after the first session, but it is recommended that you have 12 acupuncture sessions for long-lasting relief.
- Yoga – The body postures and stronger muscles associated with yoga can be very beneficial for people suffering from sciatica. It is recommended that you take part in more gentle forms of yoga so you do not irritate your already sensitive nerves.
- Massage therapy – For sciatica patients, massage is a great tool, but traditional massage might not cut it. Therapists suggest a form of massage called trigger-point therapy, in which your therapist applies pressure to irritated and inflamed areas of your back and legs.
- Topical ointments or creams – Anti-inflammatory oils, such as St. John’s Wort oil, used two to three times per day, are a good option for alleviating pain associated with sciatica. Another cream that medical professionals recommend is anything that’s cayenne-pepper based. The capsaicin found in the peppers is known to block the nerves from releasing pain.
- Ice and Heat – Although ice and heat are known for their abilities to ease inflammation, they won’t be able to do that to your sciatic nerve because the nerve is buried deep in your body. They can, however, ease the pain on the surface and “bring the pain down a notch.”
- OTC Pain Relievers – Anti-steroidal anti-inflammatories – i.e. ibuprofen – can ease your pain, but be careful: They won’t ease the pain if the pain is coming from pressure on the sciatic nerve.
- Exercise – When you’re in excruciating pain, exercise might be the last thing on your mind. But if you can get out and walk for 15-20 minutes at a time, your chances of the pain lasting a long time will go down greatly, because exercise will increase the blood flow to the disk and nerves.
Surgery is often used as a last-resort for sciatica, but the most important thing you can do is talk to your doctor if you think you might be suffering from the condition.