Sciatic Nerve Treatment – Part 1
Treatment of Sciatic Nerve Pain – Part 1
Sciatic nerve pain is treatable both at home and by trained health care professionals. If you are unsure about what to do, please consult with your local physiotherapist.
It is never to early to seek medical help for sciatic nerve pain. Most importantly, do not let your condition turn chronic. If your pain is not improving on its own, or if your sciatic nerve pain is severe, it is advisable that you go see your doctor and/or physiotherapist.
Your doctor may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain medications (NSAIDs). These anti-inflammatories will work to decrease the inflammation and swelling of the sciatic nerve itself, and decrease the overall inflammatory response. They are commonly prescribed for orthopedic conditions. NSAIDs are available over the counter as well. Common ones include Ibuprofen, Motrin, Advil, and Aleve. NSAIDs are effective at relieving pain and reducing swelling. Ideally, you want something that will address both the pain and inflammation. Medications such as Tylenol are also good for pain relief, but lack the anti-inflammatory action. Taking NSAIDs will help make your sciatic nerve pain more manageable and may help you get through the exercises your physiotherapist will recommend.
Physiotherapy treatment of sciatic nerve pain will vary based on the cause and presentation of your symptoms, and will be individualized to your own case. However, there are a few general principles that we follow in terms of treatment. The first step is to address the pain,inflammation, and acute phase of sciatica. Modalities such as TENS, IFC, ultrasound, and laser may be used. You may also be advised to apply ice to the affected area (usually the low back or buttocks) every few hours for 15-20 minutes at a time. This will help with pain and swelling. Your physiotherapist may also show you various positioning techniques that will help to take the stress off of your low back, or help to take the pressure and strain off of your sciatic nerve. For example, lying on your back with your hips and knees bent at 90 degrees and your legs resting on a chair or stool will help to take the pressure off and should be a relatively pain free position.
You may also be advised to put a large pillow under your knees if sleeping on your back, and to put the pillow between your knees if lying on your side. This helps to take the strain off your low back and pelvis, areas where the sciatic nerve often gets compressed. It is important to find a comfortable position, or one that is most comfortable, so that you can allow the affected area to rest and settle down.
Your physiotherapist will assess and evaluate the cause of your sciatic nerve pain and prescribe exercises and stretches accordingly. As a general rule though, we want to maintain/increase range of motion (ROM), decrease muscle tension, reduce pain, and finally restore strength, stabilization, and function.