Did you know that the sciatic nerve is the longest and the largest in your entire body?
It begins by the lumbar and sacral plexuses near your lower back and extends through your buttocks to the end of your thighs, above the knees. However, it delivers nerve signals down to your lower legs and feet. So when this nerve is pinched, agitated, or in pain, you can feel it anywhere from your hips to your feet.
Sciatica — or pain in this nerve — can range from mildly annoying to debilitating.
Are you looking for sciatica relief? If you’ve made it to this article, chances are you’ve got some pain and you’re looking for answers.
We’ve got good news. Despite its severe discomfort, sciatica can be healed relatively quickly and easily, depending on your condition, age, and lifestyle. You may even be able to handle it at home.
Keep reading to learn everything about sciatica.
What Is Sciatica?
We described what the sciatic nerve is, so let’s learn a bit more about sciatica itself. First, you’re not alone in your discomfort. Sciatica affects millions of Americans, ranging from a minor nuisance to a severe problem.
Sciatica is what it’s called when this nerve is in pain. If this (or any) nerve is under pressure, it sends out pain signals. This pain can be localized or more spread out.
Essentially, sciatica describes a set of symptoms. Those symptoms can be:
· Tingling or numbness
· Pain, both minor and intense
These symptoms can appear anywhere from your glutes to your feet on either leg. Since your sciatic nerve is made up of five nerve roots, where your pain is depends on which of these gets pinched or irritated.
On a 1-5 scale, the lower the number — like L5 — the lower on your body the pain will be (and vice versa). If your L5 is pinched, you’ll likely feel weakness or numbness by your feet. Your L1 will be central to your hip and glute.
What Causes Sciatica?
Knowing the causes of sciatica may help you to prevent it from occurring in the first place.
Sciatica and its underlying conditions depend on many factors, such as your age or activity level. Younger adults typically get sciatica for reasons such as herniated discs. Older adults may experience sciatica for reasons such as degenerative issues.
Your reasons for getting sciatica may be acute or chronic. Again, this depends on your lifestyle. Some more general causes for sciatica can be muscle imbalances, misalignment in the bones, or a narrowing of space in the vertebrae.
Often, the cause of sciatica can get narrowed down to four main conditions. We’ll briefly cover those next, or you can check out this article for more in-depth information.
If your spine has one or more herniated discs, this can put pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Herniated discs occur for several reasons. It can be something like a traumatic event, such as a car accident. Or it can be from years of pressure due to muscle imbalances.
This syndrome is when the piriformis muscle puts pressure on the sciatic nerve.
The piriformis muscle is a flat, band-like muscle located deep in the buttocks. It lies near the top of the hip joint.
Although this syndrome isn’t super common, it’s a possibility. Misalignment of the pelvis or hip joint can change the position of this muscle, resulting in extra pressure getting placed on the sciatic nerve.
This can also be caused because of muscle imbalances.
This condition, caused by trauma or muscle imbalance, is when the vertebra moves out of its normal position.
Again, the result equals extra pressure getting places on your sciatic.
This condition is when the space between the vertebrae decreases.
When this happens, the nerve gets compacted where it leaves the spinal column. This, like the other conditions on this list, can be due to muscle imbalances. This causes compression and a decrease in space, resulting in pinching and excessive pressure.
How to Get Sciatica Relief
One initial way to treat sciatica is with the tried-and-true RICE method (or RICER, for an added step):
- Referral by your doctor
Of course, this only offers short-term relief. It shouldn’t be your answer for longer than 24-72 hours. After that, your sciatica relief must come from other methods, or you risk the pain returning.
Often, sciatica can be a result of immobility or lack of movement. Merely moving your hips and improving your flexibility could be enough to stave off symptoms. Warming the area up with functional, dynamic exercises and then trying for strength, flexibility, and mobility can offer drastic assistance.
You’ll be happy to hear this next method!
Heat and massage can work well to provide relief. Warming the muscles allows them to loosen, reducing some of the tightness that’s causing you discomfort. Massage can help relax the muscles around the nerve, resulting in less excess pressure.
If you are an athlete with sciatica, proper warm-ups and cool-downs are pertinent to proper recovery. This can help prevent injury to more than just your sciatic nerve — it can prevent muscle injury elsewhere, too.
These methods are all great for acute conditions of sciatica. However, with chronic conditions, you must find out the underlying issue(s). If you have a displaced vertebra, simply stretching won’t be enough to offer relief.
This is why, after RICE, there is Referral. If you believe your sciatica to be from an underlying condition, you’ll need to get to the bottom of it. You may need physical therapy, a correction or realignment, and the like.
You’ve Got Nerve
We hope by the end of this article you’re enlightened on how to treat your pain.
Sciatica relief is possible — sciatica itself even preventable. If you take the necessary precautions, such as stretching, you may one day learn to appreciate your sciatic nerve and use it to improve your mobility.
If you enjoyed this article, check out the rest of our blog for more lifestyle tips and tricks!