Two of the most common questions we get at PEAK Physical Therapy are: How Do I Relieve My Sciatic Nerve Pain? Another question we often hear, “Can Sciatica Be Fixed?” The good news is that you can relieve sciatica nerve pain but it takes time, perseverance, and proper measures. You don’t have to suffer with Sciatica pain any longer, this article tells you the causes, how to prevent Sciatica pain and how we can help to relieve it.
Causes of Your Sciatic Nerve Pain
Unfortunately, sciatic nerve pain is a very common ailment but at the same time is an abnormal condition. Many people are affected by sciatica in their daily lives including but not limited to sitting, working, driving, standing, walking, and etc. When sciatic nerve pain hits you, getting relief is your top priority and focus.
But what caused your sciatic nerve pain to begin with? There are two ways we can look at it: Physically and Environmentally. Let’s start with possible reasons for your sciatica looking at the body.
Possible reasons for the cause of sciatica are:
* Compressed or Pinched Nerve
* Referred Pain Pattern
* Spasmodic Muscle
* Disc herniation
* Neural Tension
* Tumor (yes I have seen tumors compress the nerve causing pain)
These are the most common reasons for sciatic nerve pain. As you can see, there are multiple reasons for nerve pain to occur.
Some of the physical reasons for sciatica are due to genetics most often it is due to environmental causes. We cause our own nerve pain during our daily activities, positions, and motions. Yes, we most often cause our own sciatic nerve pain.
What are some of the daily activities, positions, and motions that cause this nerve pain? Here are some of the most common reasons below:
* Poor Sitting Posture
* Poor Standing Posture
* Bending forward repeatedly
* Sitting/Driving for Too Long
* Twisting in a Flexed Position (Number 1 reason so many golfers have back & sciatic pain)
See anything that you commonly do in the above list? If not, be aware of your daily positions and movements. We all do it but it is very subtle.
All these postures and motions are not harmful to our bodies per se. But as we age and/or become deconditioned, we have less resilience against such low load repetitive motions and positions. Someone once told me: “During the course of life, it isn’t the mountains that trip us up, it’s the tiny stones we ignore!”
These minuscule daily repetitive postures and motions over time cause tissue breakdown and inflammation. Nerves are very sensitive to lack of blood flow, compression, and stretch. It doesn’t take much to irritate the nerve and doing so results in abnormal symptoms including, but not limited to, pain.
Ways to Reduce Your Sciatic Nerve Pain
I know sometimes people are searching for exercises on how to relieve sciatic nerve pain. As physical therapists, we view therapeutic exercises as the ‘gas pedal’. But before we go there, we need to take our foot off the ‘brake pedal’.
Dr. Karel Lewit, Czech neurologist who is commonly referred to as the Father of Manual Medicine, once stated: “The first treatment is to teach the patient to avoid what harms them.”
The ‘brake pedal’ is what we are doing to prevent ourselves from getting better and see our sciatica disappear and resolve on its own. Remember, the body can heal itself if placed in the right environment. But if you are constantly sabotaging yourself, thus causing constant micro-trauma & frequent irritation to your body, your sciatic nerve pain will not go away even with the best medicine and exercises.
So, the first step to relieve your sciatic nerve pain is to determine what is causing it. We inform our patients that they should keep a Pain Log ( if you would like a Free Pain log, click here to email us and we will send one).
A Pain Log is helpful for a few reasons. First, you can see a pattern of what may be causing your nerve pain. Second, you also see what may not be causing you pain that you previously thought did. Finally, if you need to go see a specialist, a physical therapist for instance, about your sciatic nerve pain, you have more helpful information about your condition and your pain.
Once you find a pattern to what causes your sciatica, it is up to you to: avoid those positions and motions if you can; if you cannot, modify them; or at least take frequent breaks from the irritating movements and positions.
Exercises to Relieve Your Sciatic Nerve Pain
There are a few ways to relieve your sciatica. One, as we spoke before, is to prevent the nerve pain from getting worse. Two, make sure you perform some the following as both preventive and corrective to relieve your nerve pain:
You need to be active and not sedentary. And I am not talking about athletic exercise. Get up and be purposeful in moving. As I typed out this article, these were all the positions I was in: Sitting; Standing, Prone Lying; Half-Kneeling, Tall-Kneeling; and Walking in Place (aka marching). As I say: ‘He/She Who Stops…Rots!’
Move Consistently even when sitting. Get up and move for 1 minute every 15’ of sitting. Set an alarm. The body loves to move. Give your body what it wants and needs.
Make sure you aren’t putting excessive and unnatural loads through your spine and tissues by being in repeated poor postures and motions. Move with your spine not being in excessive flexion, extension, and/or rotation.
And while sitting, sit upright. By sitting upright, you are actually sitting on the ‘sit bones’ and not the soft structures of muscles & nerves when you slouch. Prevention is key here.
These are advanced exercises and only do them if you have been instructed before by a trained specialist or professional. This is just a reminder that nerves need to move within the neural sheath and neural mobilizations do just that.
Remember, if starting back, go slow and listen to your body. It is better to perform these mobilizations more frequently at a low intensity than fewer at a high intensity.
If you are unsure, have questions, and/or need more instruction on the suggestions on how to relieve nerve pain, please contact us or your local movement physical therapist. Waiting won’t make it better. Often, waiting actually makes it worse and allows it to be more ingrained into nervous system which isn’t healthy at the moment.
Wrapping up pain in the Sciatic Nerve Pain
Having sciatica and/or nerve pain can be complex, but you should try to do a few of the tips and suggestions listed above.
A few points need to be made.
If you have had continued sciatica pain and if self-treatments have not helped after 2 weeks, please get a movement professional to properly diagnose and assess you.
If you have had continued sciatic nerve pain and if your self-treatments have not made a difference in your pain or motion, it may not be your sciatica. Go see a movement physical therapist.
Don’t seek out the sexiest, latest & greatest, and ‘hot’ exercises as treatment for your sciatica pain. Usually, the simplest and mundane work the best.
Finally, keep a record of your self treatments. If you don’t, you won’t be consistent and able to determine patterns of what works and what doesn’t, your progression, and in time if you go see a movement physical therapist, they will be able to give recommendations and guidance based on your treatment records.
Most importantly, go slow, give your body time to acclimate, and be kind to yourself.
You don’t have to Live with Sciatic Nerve Pain
Our mission at PEAK Physical Therapy is to make people better! We treat individuals, just like you, who have chronic to recent sciatica pain. You don’t have to suffer. Whether you need help with a diagnosis, functional medical advice, or want a second, or third or more, opinion and vantage point, remember we are always here to help you.
Don’t delay, appointments times are limited.
If you want to live an Active, Independent, Dynamic, & Enjoyable Life without Sciatica and are not getting answers and no-one can find what is causing your pain & problems – Choose Physical Therapy. And, If You Need Physical Therapy and You Want Your Health To Last…Choose PEAK PT FIRST!™
Until We Chat Again…
Be & Stay Well!
Sasha Digges PT, ATC, CSCS
Senior PhysioTherapist & Clinical Director
Remember, We’re here to help…
If you’re in pain and would like to talk to us about getting some pain relief help, an evaluation, or if you are looking for physical therapy treatment, remember we are always here to help you.
If you would like to to speak with a Physical Therapist, schedule a Meet & Greet or a Physical Therapy Evaluation, please Click Here to complete our Contact Us form or Call Us at 757-564-7381.
P.S.: Do you know someone suffering with aches & pain?
We would love to help someone you know live a pain free life too. That person could be someone who you live with, work with, or an extended friend or family member, who is maybe suffering with some kind of ache or pain that we can fix.
We’re here to help with your Sciatic Nerve Pain…
If you would like to learn more on this topic, please click Expert help with Sciatica Pain