The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest in the body, originating in the lower back and spreading down into the lower extremities. Because the sciatic nerve is essential for transmitting sensory and motor information throughout the lower body, sciatic nerve pain can be a major debilitating condition. Causes of sciatic nerve pain can include muscle strains in the lower back and buttocks, but the most common causes of chronic problems are spine conditions such as herniated discs.
By causing shooting pain, leg pain, muscle cramps and other symptoms, sciatic nerve pain can affect nearly every part of your daily life. The good news is there are a wide range of effective treatment options. A very widely overlooked aspect of sciatic nerve pain is inflammation. While it is important to address the primary causes of sciatic nerve pain through treatment, taking steps to reduce inflammation in both the affected area and throughout the body is an essential part of finding relief.
Take a moment to read the following information of how to reduce inflammation for sciatic nerve pain. By taking control of your care you can be more empowered as a patient, enabling you to work more closely with your treatment team. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
The connection between inflammation and nerve pain
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to damaged tissue, infection or many other perceived threats. Our bodies are designed to increase blood flow to an area and release certain chemicals that help to promote healing.
There is evidence that the inflammatory process also interacts with the nervous system. This means that conditions that cause irritation or compression of nerves, such as sciatic nerve pain, can create an inflammatory response that does not subside.
What’s more, there are a wide range of lifestyle factors that can increase inflammation in the body independently of sciatic nerve pain causes. These factors can actually increase the severity of nerve pain.
By adopting a comprehensive approach that helps to reduce inflammation both at the site of sciatic nerve compression and throughout the body, you can give yourself the best chance of finding long-term relief.
Conservative therapy to reduce inflammation in the sciatic nerves
Upon diagnosing a spine condition as the underlying source of sciatic nerve pain, doctors will typically recommend a course of conservative therapy to relieve pain, reduce inflammation and decrease pressure on the nerves. Common options include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen play a key role in relieving pain related to inflammation
- Cold therapy, such as an ice pack, helps to reduce inflammation and numb the area on a temporary basis
- Heat therapy relaxes the area and increases blood flow to help the healing response
- Physical therapy helps strengthen the body and increase range of motion to relieve pain and improve function
- Therapeutic injections help to relieve inflammation and pain on a medium term basis while the progression of sciatic nerve pain is monitored
Many people find relief from sciatic nerve pain by committing to a course of conservative therapy. It is also important to commit to a healthy lifestyle.
The importance of an anti-inflammatory, spine healthy lifestyle
Combining a comprehensive conservative treatment plan to the following anti-inflammatory lifestyle choices is a highly effective way to relieve pain:
- An anti-inflammatory diet — healthy foods including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, salmon, fiber have been shown to be effective for reducing inflammation. Turmeric, ginger and green tea are just a few examples of highly potent natural anti-inflammatories.
- Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption — Tobacco products and alcohol are both associated with increased inflammation. Working with your doctor to develop a smoking cessation program and moderate alcohol intake can both help to relieve sciatic nerve pain.
- Getting regular exercise — Exercise helps improve cardiovascular health and potentially nerve function. It can also help develop a stronger body and be a key part of weight management.
It can take patience to develop an effective treatment plan to manage sciatic nerve pain on a long-term basis, but many patients are able to find the lasting relief they deserve.
When to consider surgery for sciatic nerve pain
If weeks or months of conservative therapy combined with committing to a healthy lifestyle does not bring the relief and reduced inflammation you need for a good quality of life, it may be time to consider surgery. The goal of surgery for sciatic nerve pain is to access the spine at the site of nerve compression or irritation and remove the displaced anatomy, such as herniated disc material, that is causing nerve pain.
Traditional approaches to sciatica surgery required a highly invasive surgery with a large incision and significant muscle disruption. Thanks to advances in surgical technology, it is now possible to perform minimally invasive procedures on an outpatient basis. This can help patients experience a shorter recovery and less risk of complication.
At USA Spine Care, our multidisciplinary team has extensive experience helping people dealing with sciatic nerve pain reclaim a healthy and active lifestyle. From physical therapy and pain-relieving injections to state-of-the-art minimally invasive outpatient procedures, we can help you develop an individualized treatment plan for long-term relief.
Contact us today to learn more.
Sciatic Nerve Pain Quick Answers
How do you get the sciatic nerve to stop hurting?
Many patients alternate a heat source and an ice pack for fast-acting sciatic nerve pain relief. Heat promotes blood flow to the affected area while ice reduces inflammation and numbs the area temporarily. Your doctor can help you find other conservative treatments for sciatic nerve pain relief.
What triggers sciatic nerve pain?
Sciatic nerve pain, or sciatica, is typically caused by compression or irritation of the long and wide sciatic nerve that starts in the lower back. Common causes include spine conditions such as bulging and herniated discs. A large number of people with sciatica pain find relief with conservative therapies
What is the most effective pain relief for sciatica?
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as tylenol and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen sodium and ibuprofen provide pain relief in addition to hot and cold therapy. Physical therapy and pain-relieving injections can provide longer-term relief.
How long will sciatica take to heal?
Acute episodes of sciatic nerve pain may last between one and two weeks, while chronic sciatica can last for months or longer. Minor cases can improve with minimal treatment, while chronic sciatic nerve pain may require involved conservative care or potentially surgery to relieve compression or irritation.