Lower back pain is something that has been a part of everyone’s life. But when it starts to disrupt a lot of everyday activities, such as driving, sitting on a chair reading or surfing the net, or even bending to pick something up, it can be painful and frustrating. This is characteristic of sciatic nerve pain which is shooting pains from the buttocks to the foot, paired with numbness or sometimes tingling. Natural Sciatic Nerve Pain Treatment Options include physiotherapy, acupuncture, chiropractic intervention, ice pack, Massage therapy, etc.
Often, sciatic nerve pain is confused with other kinds of pain, so it’s important to understand the difference between sciatica and other painful conditions. The sciatic nerve emerges from the lumbar region of the spine (lower back), and it reaches all the way down to the thigh, calf up till the foot.
The root of this nerve is essential as most of the symptoms are due to compression at this site. Sciatic nerve pain is of a searing and burning type.
The pain is usually unilateral, which is on one side only. Natural treatment options for sciatic nerve pain range from physical therapy to acupuncture. These options differ from person to person and can be maintained through pharmacological intervention as well.
What causes sciatic nerve pain?
It happens due to several reasons which are –
There is ‘intervertebral discs’ in between our vertebrae. They are made up of strong and tough cartilages. When this bulges out of its anatomical location, it is known as the slipped disk.
This can occur because of:
- Age-related degeneration of cartilage
- A particular posture or activity such as lifting heavy objects and bending
- Manual labor demanding job
- Obesity strain on the bones
Now, when the herniated disc exerts pressure on the nerve roots of the sciatic nerve, it produces symptoms of sciatic nerve pain.
In basic terms, it means the displacement of one vertebra over another. It occurs in athletes, weightlifters, and gymnasts.
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
The vertebral canal has a central opening through which our spinal cord passes. When this opening becomes narrow, it impinges on the nerve.
Sciatica can be triggered by gunshot wounds, breaks in the pelvic bones or even blunt trauma to the gluteal region.
Cancers of the pelvic region or vertebrae, abscesses and hemorrhage can also be the causes of Sciatica.
Symptoms range from manageable, wherein patients don’t even realize what they have, to unbearable pain which could lead to hospitalization. Some of the symptoms are:
- Sharp, searing pain along the course of the nerve, from buttocks to the foot. The type of pain is characteristic; it is a shooting, lightning bolt kind of pain.
- Numbness and weakness in the leg or foot
- Tingling sensations, like “pins and needles” down the affected area
- Pain exacerbates while sitting due to pressure on the lumbosacral joint.
- Diminished ankle and foot reflexes
- Foot drop – when the foot can’t be picked up from the ground.
When is it a cause for concern?
Usually, sciatic nerve pain can be managed with a combination of drugs and natural remedies, but if that doesn’t control it, it’s time to visit the doctor.
If symptoms progress rapidly within a given time frame
Neurological damage is a high-risk possibility and must be avoided at all costs. Leg weakness and foot drop are symptoms not to be taken lightly.
If you have Cauda Equina Syndrome
This is a rare condition in which the bladder and bowel become debilitated and lose control. This occurs because the pelvic nerve supply is from the same nerve roots.
It may even cause permanent nerve damage or permanent paralysis. The compression reaches an all-time peak and affects organs. It is a surgical emergency.
Diagnosis of sciatic nerve pain
There aren’t many lab investigations required or useful in these cases. The doctor can spot sciatica in between the lines of the symptoms and clinical presentation.
Physical examination and neurological exams are a part of the procedure. The former is essential to know how much this condition has affected your body movements and activities, while the latter is useful in understanding the nerve functionality.
A few helpful tools can be X-ray or CT scans. An MRI of the spine may also be relevant.
Sciatic nerve pain treatment options
Sciatica is very manageable and can be even kept under control through home remedies. (1) There is a combination of therapies that are used which includes –
- Natural Remedies
- Medical Management
- Surgical Management
Natural sciatic nerve pain treatment options
Acupuncture involves relief of pain by putting pins in the direction of areas of energy. It is an antique Chinese medicine practice which has treated various types of pain and musculoskeletal problems.
Painless needles are introduced into the skin at well-known points, depending on where is the sciatic nerve pain and the affected areas are then targeted. These points are carefully studied and they contain nerve bundles and thus relieve pain.
It is an FDA approved method which is recognized worldwide. It isn’t allowed to be done by just anybody in the USA; it is diligently tested and researched.
In the specific interest of Sciatic nerve pain, acupuncture should be well discussed and informed with regular communication between patient and the acupuncturist, as the pain can be anywhere from the glutes to the foot.
Research (2) proves it might be more beneficial than drugs as well.
2. Massage therapy
This is the most organic and simple way to curb the sciatica symptoms.
Any massage therapist familiar with the dos and don’ts of sciatic nerve pain can be approached. They help relieve and alleviate the pain due to spasms and painful contractions of specific muscles.
There is a release of certain chemicals known as ‘endorphins’ which make you relaxed and happy. They soothe your body tone and relax the muscles which are in pain. They are released during exercise too.
There are various types of techniques used, and also, therapists can recommend home exercises. Also, there are tons of supplies and equipment one can buy to ease the pain at home.
3. Chiropractic intervention
They help to align the spine to improve functionality and increase mobility. Chiropractic treatment has a lot to do with the treatment of sciatic nerve pain as it is centered around the spine and its manipulation.
Techniques begin with a swift high-velocity thrust to and then go on ahead to adjustments combining minimal force and gentle pressure. These reduce nerve irritability and help in regaining range of motion.
Spinal manipulation is the kind of work that makes chiropractic care precise and specific in treatment.
There is also something known as chiropractic mobilization which involves stretching of many joints, so the flexibility retains.
4. Physical therapy
This can do wonders to increase the tone and structural integrity of muscles. There are a vast majority of exercises which could help in pain relief.
The tricky part about sciatic nerve pain is that on long-term sitting or lying down; it gets aggravated. There is a need for short, quick low-intensity exercise like yoga or swimming.
Yoga is a beautiful mechanism to not only stretch muscles but also to calm down the entire system and nerves. Even small changes like going for a walk in the morning could bring some solace.
There is a list of exercises (3) which prevent the muscle from wasting away and dying. They need to be done at regular intervals and managed along with diet.
5. Ice pack
Before rushing into any hospital for drastic measures, a simple ice pack with a cloth can be placed at the site of pain for 15 minutes and then removed for 15 minutes. This must be repeated for 2 hours.
Ice packs include frozen bottles of water or even a sack of frozen veggies from the refrigerator. They should never be placed in direct contact with the skin to prevent ice burns.
They prevent the action of painful mediators in the body by reducing blood flow and soothe the muscles undergoing painful spasms. It also has a numbing effect on the nerves.
An alternative is using heating pads at the same places which have similar benefits. Though heat helps in a different mechanism like increasing the blood flow and it increases the disposal of waste products from the site of pain.
This is not a permanent fix for most, but it helps out in acute pain.
Conventional sciatic nerve pain treatment
NSAIDs like Aspirin and Naproxen which reduce the chemicals responsible for pain. Muscle relaxants have also proven to be helpful. Even steroids can be administered to counteract inflammation.
Surgical Management (4)
- A microdiscectomy, which means removal of the “protruded” part of a slipped disk, so the irritation and compression of the nerve dissolve.
- Spinal injection of steroids into the nerve. This is a drug delivery directed at the source.
It not only reduces inflammation but also has an adjuvant to clear out waste and inflammatory debris collected in that region.
This terminates the treatment plan. One of the minor things people tend to forget about this situation is that chronic pain affects the mind as well (5).
Hence, it is essential to consult a psychologist or support groups for some loving and encouraging. It is important to know you aren’t suffering alone.
Final words on sciatic nerve pain treatment
Sciatic nerve pain is a generalized problem faced by many. In some cases, it is insignificant and small lifestyle changes, like bed rest, few exercises can repair it.
It is essential to understand the symptom pattern and seek sciatic nerve pain treatment when it can’t be managed. Although it is painful and there are many myths associated with this condition, it is most certainly correctable.