Tips for managing sciatica

Sciatica can be a real pain in the backside… and leg, and foot.

The sciatic nerve branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg.

When the nerve is irritated it can cause pain, numbness, tingling and weakness. This pain is known as sciatica. The irritation can be caused by a disc bulge or herniation or age-related narrowing of the bones around the nerves. Sciatica usually only affects one side of your body.

The most common pattern of pain is on one side of your body down your buttocks and the back of your leg, and down to your foot. It can also be felt in your back. The pain can range from a mild ache to excruciating pain.

Here are some tips to help you manage sciatica:

1. Gentle exercise

Regular, gentle exercise and stretching can help your sciatica get better faster. Also, make sure your posture is good when sitting and standing to help speed up your recovery and to prevent problems developing in the future.

2. Medication

Ask your GP or pharmacist about anti-inflammatories and nerve pain medications that are available to help you manage the pain.

3. See a physiotherapist

A physiotherapist can help you with targeted treatment and exercises to help your sciatica.

4. Heat/cold packs

Warm baths or heat/cold packs can be helpful for some people.

5. Reduce time spent sitting/lying

Try to reduce the amount of time you spend sitting or lying. Moving and changing positions regularly is the best thing you can do to help get better faster. Avoid lifting anything heavy.

6. Use a cushion

When you’re lying on your side, put a small firm cushion between your knees to help relieve the pain. If you’re lying on your back, put several firm pillows under your knees.

Mild sciatica can get better by itself over time. However, if you’re in a lot of pain, your symptoms get worse, you have weakness or difficulty lifting your foot when walking or your bowel or bladder isn’t working properly, please contact your GP or healthcare provider immediately.

References

  1. Sciatica Health Navigator NZ
  2. Sciatica NHS, UK
  3. Sciatica Mayo Clinic, US