Sciatica is pain in the leg that runs along the course of the sciatic nerve due to pinching or irritation of the nerves in the lower back. Common causes include herniated discs, spondylolisthesis (a condition in which one vertebrae slips out of place onto the bone below it) or degenerated discs.
It typically presents as pain in the buttock, thigh and/or calf, and can be accompanied by numbness and sometimes even weakness in the leg. If numbness or weakness progresses or worsens over time, medical attention should be sought immediately. Most times these problems will resolve in a few weeks. If the pain persists or starts to worsen, non-surgical care such as physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, epidural injections, and medications may be helpful. If sciatica is unresponsive to non-surgical care, a spine surgical opinion may be needed.
Here’s what you can do at home to help the pain go away sooner:
- Ice therapy for acute pain and heat therapy for chronic pain
- Over-the-counter pain medications such as Tylenol or NSAIDs (Advil or Motrin)
- Yoga stretches and exercises such as pelvic tilts, dead bugs, cat-cow, piriformis stretch, and the child pose can be helpful.
If your sciatic symptoms are not improving or getting worse, you should see your health care provider.
David BenEliyahu, DC, FICC
Administrative Director, Back & Neck Pain Center at Mather Hospital