Pain in the Sciatic Nerve

By Ehren Allen, Certified Manual Therapist/Physical Therapist

What is Pain in the Sciatic Nerve?

Pain in the sciatic nerve can be treated at JOI.

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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 that is 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 muscles and sensory receptors of the lower extremity.

On another note, when there is inflammation or a irritation in a structure of the lower back or sacrum, it can cause pain to travel along these nerve structures. Also, a bulging or hernated disk may cause pain in the sciatic nerve. In some cases, muscle tightness in the pelvis can irritate the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve runs in close proximity to the piriformis muscle. Moreover, the disk and lower back issues are frequently the cause of pain in the sciatic nerve.

Low back pain and pain in the sciatic nerve are very common conditions in our society. Approximately 8 of 10 people will suffer severe pain in the sciatic nerve or lower back pain in their lifetime.

How Do I Relieve Sciatic Nerve Pain?

Pain in the sciatic nerve is commonly caused from prolonged sitting activity. It often occurs in those with desk jobs, which is a large majority of the current work force. Standing may decrease the pain. Standing work stations are becoming more common to help prevent issues like pain in the sciatic nerve. In addition, gentle movement exercises, such as gentle back extensions may help to relieve the pain.

What is the Most Effective Pain Relief for Sciatica?

Rest and anti-inflammatory medications can help initially with sciatica. It is recommended to speak to a physician before taking anti-inflammatory medications. Also, rest and avoiding painful positions is recommended initially as well. After a day or two, gentle movement is recommended to avoid other issues or abnormal movement patterns.

Early physical therapy can be helpful to decrease pain and improve movement and stabilization of the spine.

Typically, X-ray films and MRIs are not needed initially, though some physicians may order them. However, if pain continues after 4 to 6 weeks of physical therapy, then it may be necessary to have an MRI to determine if other interventions are needed.

How long does it take for Sciatic Nerve Pain to go away?

Pain in the sciatic nerve may resolve quickly with early treatment. A typical episode of lower back pain or sciatica takes between 6 and 10 weeks to resolve. However, that does not mean that there will be acute level pain for that long. Physical therapy can help to improve symptoms quicker. Also, postural education and body mechanics education is important to decrease the incidence of recurrence.

JOI Rehab

If you have pain in the sciatic nerve, JOI can help. The Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute and JOI Rehabilitation has world-class orthopaedic spine specialists and physical therapists to treat your sciatic nerve pain. Also, 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. Furthermore, this allows quick access to the top orthopaedic care in the region if a referral is needed. JOI is here for you!

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By: Dr. Lance Snyder, MD


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