How to deal with sciatica pain

July 08, 2019 | by Tiana Carrillo, MD
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

It’s pain that shoots from your lower back down the back of one leg. Sometimes it’s achy, sometimes it’s burning and sharp.

Sciatica can be so painful that it’s difficult to walk or sit or sleep. It’s often caused by a bulging (herniated) disc in your lower spine. These cushioning discs can slip out of place and irritate or squeeze your sciatic nerve, which causes the pain.

Sciatica can also be caused by muscle spasms in your back or buttocks.

You’re more likely to get sciatica if you fit these risk categories:

  • Age (typically between 30-50)
  • You’re tall – there’s an increased risk with height
  • You’re a smoker
  • You’re under mental stress
  • You’re involved in strenuous physical activity, such as frequent lifting, especially while bending and twisting
  • You’re driving a lot

The most common symptoms of sciatica include:

  • Sharp pain that radiates down one leg (could also have numbness or tingling)
  • Low back pain

The good news: sciatica usually heals itself without surgery or other interventions. The bad news: it can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for the condition to heal itself.

The best ways to handle the pain? Try:

  • Taking anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or aspirin
  • Putting heat or cold on your muscles
  • Moving. Don’t lie down in bed or sit for long periods of time. Movement helps heal sciatica. Take regular walks.
  • Low-back and hip stretches or physical therapy
  • Acupuncture or massage therapy

If those remedies don’t ease the pain, your doctor may prescribe muscle relaxants, inject pain-relieving medication into your spine, or even talk about surgery. Surgery is typically needed if the pain is severe and does not respond to other treatment or heal on its own.

Dr. Tiana Carrillo-Calderon is a family medicine physician with Elmhurst Memorial Medical Group. Dr. Carrillo-Calderon is accepting new patients in Elmhurst! View her profile and schedule an appointment.

Related blogs:

Will your back pain just go away?
What can you do when you’re always in pain?
Yes, adults, you should have a primary care physician

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