Pain in the Sciatic Nerve

By Kelly Rocheleau, MPT, CSCS

What Causes Pain in the Sciatic Nerve?

The quick answer is sciatic nerve pain, or sciatica, is a common condition that describes pain radiating down the buttocks, back of the thigh, and lower leg. Typically, this pain originates from the lower back. The sciatic nerve is a large nerve made up of spinal nerves from the lumbar and sacral spinal nerves. These nerves come together into one large nerve to pass through the pelvis and hip region. It splits into smaller nerves around the knee and provides innervation to the lower extremity muscles and sensory receptors.

illustration of anatomy of sciatic nerve

Sciatic Nerve Diagram.






This type of pain usually only affects one side of your body. Furthermore, it is usually caused by a herniated disc in the spine, a bone spur, or a narrowing of the spine, also known as spinal stenosis. This type of pain people experiences a prevalent condition in our society. Approximately 8 out of 10 people will suffer severe sciatic nerve pain or lower back issues in their lifetime.

How Do I Get My Sciatic Nerve Pain to Stop Hurting?

image of sitting and standing workstations

Standing workstations help prevent sciatic nerve pain.

Generally, 80-90% of people get better in a few weeks. Prolonged sitting can cause pain in the sciatic nerve. It often occurs in those with desk jobs, which is a large majority of the current workforce. Here are some tips that may help with your pain.

  • Standing up after sitting for a while.
  • Trying out a standing workstation.
    • These are becoming more common to help prevent these types of issues.
  • One should try not to stay in a seated position for too long but instead stand up and move around often.
  • When taking a standing break, complete gentle back extensions a few times.
image of hip pain

The pinched human sciatic nerve, anatomical vision. 3D Render.

How Long Does it Take for Sciatic Nerve Pain to Go Away?

Although this pain can be severe, it usually goes away in about 8 weeks without any surgical intervention. If you have severe sciatic nerve pain accompanied by bowel or bladder issues or significant weakness in the leg, you should contact your doctor.

Also, physical therapy can help to improve symptoms quicker. If pain continues after 4 to 6 weeks of physical therapy, your physician may choose to order an  MRI to determine if other interventions are needed.  Some patients get relief from injections in this area.  JOI has 3 physicians who work specifically with injections for pain relief from sciatica.

How Can I Relieve Sciatic Nerve Pain at Home?

At home, one can alleviate this type of pain with multiple treatment options. Overall, the goal is to decrease muscle spasms which will help relieve the pain.

  • Administer cold and/or hot packs, 2-3 times per day, for about 15–20 minutes
  • Over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol, Aleve, Advil/Motrin.  Some patients report relief with Biofreeze or over-the-counter Voltaren gel.
  • Doing gradual exercises and stretching (or positioning)
Sciatic Nerve Stretch

Piriformis Muscle Stretch for Pain in the Sciatic Nerve

  • Early physical therapy can help decrease pain and improve movement and stabilization of the spine.

To learn more about stretches for the sciatic nerve, please go to this ARTICLE.

By: Kelly Rocheleau, MPT, CSCS

JOI Rehab

The Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute and JOI Rehabilitation have world-class orthopedic spine specialists and physical therapists to treat your pain. JOI has a FAST TRACK Program to help patients receive conservative physical therapy treatment within 24 hours of contacting us. With a physician referral, most insurance companies cover this service.  In conclusion, this allows quick access to the top orthopedic care in the region if a referral is needed. To schedule an appointment for physical therapy, please call 904-858-7045.  JOI is here for you!


To schedule an appointment with a JOI Orthopedic Spine Specialist, please call 904-JOI-2000 or click below.

Book An Appointment with a JOI Physician today.

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