I’ve had low back pain for many years, and have managed it well with medication and exercise. A few days ago I felt pain in my back, which radiated through my hips and buttocks, all the way down to my feet. I knew instantly that it was sciatica.
Sciatica usually affects only one side of the body and can be caused by age-related changes such as a herniated disk or a bone spur. Other possible causes are obesity, diabetes, or working a sedentary job where you are sitting most of the day.
You’ll need to consult your doctor as soon as possible, but there are some treatments you can do on your own.
Here are four treatments to reduce sciatic pain:
An ice pack or package of frozen vegetables can help reduce the pain in the first 48 hours. I know in these cold winter months the last thing you feel like doing is sitting with ice on your back, but if it reduces your pain, it is well worth it.
Apply to the affected areas for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Use a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
Use a heating pad or hot water bottle on the affected areas. Use a low setting and wrap in a thin towel. Heat feels soothing to the skin, and increases blood flow.
Sciatica can be very painful, so your doctor may prescribe a strong narcotic. Follow the doctor’s instructions because these medications can become addictive. Narcotics can cause nausea, so take it with a meal or snack.
In addition, you ‘ll also need an anti-inflammatory to treat any swollen or inflamed tissues. A muscle relaxer can control painful spasms.
Stretching relieves sciatic pain in muscles that are tight and inflexible. Equally important are strength building exercises that support muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the spinal column. This helps prevent future flare-ups.
Work with a physical therapist who can show you the correct way to exercise without hurting yourself. Physical therapy is not an instant fix and it may take 4-6 weeks before you’re pain free.