As many as 40% of Americans suffer from sciatica at some point in their life, along with the pain, burning sensations, and numbness it can cause. The good news is sciatica can usually be managed without invasive treatments.
You have two sciatic nerves, one on each side of your body. They start in your lower back and run through your hips, buttocks, legs, and into your feet.
Sciatica happens when one of these nerves gets compressed or pinched where it exits the spine. Symptoms can occur in the lower back or anywhere along the path of the affected nerve.
A leading pain management practice in Pembroke Pines, Florida, Berkower Pain & Spine Rehabilitation offers custom treatment plans for sciatica, using therapies aimed at relieving flare-ups and preventing symptoms from recurring. In this post, David Berkower, DO, and his team offer some tips that can help relieve sciatica symptoms.
Why sciatica flare-ups happen
As mentioned earlier, you have two sciatic nerves, and they travel from your lower back, through your hips, buttocks, legs, and into your feet. Where the problem can occur is in your lower spine.
Your lower spine helps you bend, stand, walk, and more — things you likely do countless times a day. While the lower spine is often able to accomplish these things without a hitch, if something goes wrong, this can cause either of the sciatic nerves to get compressed or pinched where the affected nerve exits the spine.
Lots of things can cause or contribute to sciatic nerve compression in your lower spine, such as the following:
- Herniated disc
- Strenuous activity
- Falls and other traumatic injuries
- Age-related changes
- Degenerative spine diseases
Sciatica flare-ups typically cause extreme symptoms that can take a toll on activities of daily living. Many people who have flare-ups also have trouble sleeping, with symptoms worsening when they lie down.
Managing severe flare-ups
Sciatica often responds well to a combination of lifestyle changes and medical therapies tailored to a person’s symptoms, health history, and lifestyle. These steps may help relieve your sciatica pain.
Modify your activities
During a sciatica flare-up, it’s essential to curb activities that strain the lower back, such as heavy or repetitive lifting, bending, or squatting. Make time to rest your back, but avoid being completely immobile, since that could make your symptoms worse.
Use ice and heat
Applying an ice pack at the beginning of a flare-up can help relieve inflammation that could be making your symptoms worse. Following up with a warm compress or heating pad can reduce muscle tightness and improve circulation in the area.
Try gentle stretching
Gentle stretching can help open up the spaces between your vertebrae, which can help reduce pressure on the affected nerve. It can also improve blood flow and thereby bring more oxygen and nutrients to the damaged tissues.
Take an over-the-counter medication
Look for over-the-counter medicines that can help with both pain and inflammation. Take medicines only as prescribed, and if you take other medicines, call the office first.
Change your shoes
Wearing shoes that fit properly and offer adequate support can reduce strain on your lower back. While changing shoes may not relieve an ongoing flare-up, it might prevent pain and other sciatica symptoms in the future.
If you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk or standing at your workplace, look for ways to optimize the way you perform your activities. Take regular breaks to move around and stretch, choose a chair with adequate spine support, practice good posture, and place your computer so you don’t strain your neck or back to use it.
Look into physical therapy
Physical therapy uses exercises and stretching to relieve pain and inflammation, support healing, and improve strength and flexibility. In addition to in-person sessions, physical therapy can include at-home exercises to help you heal and recover more quickly.
Dr. Berkower offers different types of injections that can help with sciatica flare-ups. Depending on your symptoms and other factors, he may recommend epidural injections to deliver medication near your sciatic nerve or into neighboring muscles to relieve pain and spasms.
Prevent sciatica pain
While sciatica can typically be treated conservatively, delaying care could cause more serious problems, including permanent nerve damage. Early evaluation and treatment is important for feeling better and preventing complications.
To learn how we can help you manage and even prevent sciatica flare-ups, call 954-430-9972 or book an appointment online with Berkower Pain & Spine Rehabilitation today.