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How to deal with sciatica

Written by Dr Anitha Anchan |Published : August 16, 2016 3:26 PM IST

Compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve (the longest nerve in your body) results in a condition called sciatica. It causes mild to severe pain that originates from your lower back and radiates down your leg to your calf, typically on one side of your body . Simple actions like laughing, sneezing, coughing, standing or sitting for a long time or bending backwards may also cause shooting pain in some.

Living with sciatica

Sciatica could be easily treated in some people. The pain can be addressed and resolved within weeks with conservative treatment. But the condition can test the patience and endurance of many. Sciatica, when ignored, can be frustrating and can greatly impact your quality of life. You may experience flare-ups that worsen with time. Simple daily activities like walking, sitting upright, standing and sleeping can become limiting, or even impossible. The ailment can lead to partial immobility of the leg or partial or complete loss of feeling (sensation) in the affected leg. Read more about what is sciatica and who is at risk for sciatica.

1. Limit your discomfort

A mix of self-help techniques and medical treatment can help you manage persistent or advanced stage of sciatica. Painkillers can help relieve pain in early stage chronic sciatica. Hot or cold compression packs may help too. Epidural steroid injection may provide relief from inflammation. Bed rest for a day or two may provide some temporary pain relief. But bear in mind that it is advisable to be as physically active as possible.

2. Strengthen your lower back

After a brief period of rest, incorporate walking and gentle stretching exercises in your daily routine. Regular exercise will strengthen your back muscles and help support the spine. It also stimulates the production of natural painkilling chemicals called endorphins. Weights and crunches should be avoided when you have sciatica. Hence, try to find an alternative such as swimming or pilates, that will not aggravate your condition and help you stay fit as well. But talk to your doctor or physiotherapist before you start any new exercise regime. Stay committed to your treatment plan. Relief from sciatica isn t likely to be instant and may take a while before the results show.

3. Include alternate approaches

You may find benefit from alternative approaches. Yoga can be safe and beneficial for your sciatica. Oil massages and yoga asanas can help significantly in relieving sciatica signs and symptoms like pain, tenderness, rigidity, difficulty in walking and pain on bending forward.

4. Explore surgical options

If you don t find any difference in your condition even after several weeks of treatment, you may require surgery to correct your condition. It can treat the identifiable cause and help relieve the pressure on the nerve. Make sure to discuss the relative risks and benefits of spine surgery. Visit a doctor immediately if you have a long period of numbness in your bottom, lower back and leg, feel weakness in your leg and foot or experience loss of bladder or bowel control.

References:

1. Monro R, Bhardwaj AK, Gupta RK, Telles S, Allen B, Little P. Disc extrusions and bulges in nonspecific low back pain and sciatica: Exploratory randomized controlled trial comparing yoga therapy and normal medical treatment. J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2015;28(2):383-92. doi: 10.3233/BMR-140531. PubMed PMID: 25271201.

2. Singh AK, Singh OP. A preliminary clinical evaluation of external snehan and asanas in the patients of sciatica. Int J Yoga. 2013 Jan;6(1):71-5. doi: 10.4103/0973-6131.105950. PubMed PMID: 23439799; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3573547.

Image source: Shutterstock (Image for representational purpose only)


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