If you suffer from chronic sciatica, you are aware that the searing nerve pain can appear to come from nowhere and may persist for weeks.
What triggers sciatica flare-ups? Can anyone provide an estimate of how long they will last?
Is there anything you can do to ease the searing pain and debilitating numbness caused by sciatica?
This article will take a look at these questions one at a time and try to provide a few answers.
The Spark—A Sudden, Shooting Pain
Severe sciatica is caused by pressure on or irritation of the sciatic nerve, which stretches from the lower back down through your legs and feet.
This irritation can be a result of muscle spasms, degenerating disks, and other back and spine injuries, disorders or misalignment.
Flare-ups of sciatic pain are often a result of stress being placed on imbalanced or tight muscles.
The trigger for a flare-up is often determined by the root cause of your sciatica. If you regularly struggle with sciatica, sudden or unaccustomed movement or sitting for long amounts of time may cause a flare-up.
Being overweight can worsen sciatica, as can wearing high heels, sleeping on an overly soft mattress, and not getting regular exercise.
Taking steps to discover the root cause of your sciatica will be very important as you try to learn what to expect from your flare-ups, how to avoid triggers and how to manage your pain.
The Burn—One Week to Six Months
Most people experience the worst sciatic pain in their legs and buttock rather than their lower back.
The pain is generally described as sharp, “shooting,” or like an electrical shock.
Sometimes sciatica causes numbness, weakness, or a tingling “pins and needles” feeling in one or both legs or feet.
Sciatic pain often worsens when you sit or stand, which makes it a very difficult pain to deal with, as these are the two positions in which we spend most of our waking time.
Chronic pain can be extremely demoralizing as it affects every part of your life and may even keep you from enjoying certain activities and settings.
You may find yourself wondering if you will ever be able to live normally again and be pain free.
For chronic sciatica sufferers, it is difficult to estimate how much time you will have between flare-ups and how long a flare-up will last.
When proper measures are taken to address and relieve sciatica, months and even years can pass with no severe flare-ups. However, a flare-up for one person can last anywhere from days to months.
One doctor was quoted to say that eighty to ninety percent of sciatica pain will last no longer than six to eight weeks.
It is recommended that if your pain persists for over three weeks, you seek the attention of a medical professional.
They will at least be able to answer some questions for you and determine whether or not further medical interventions is advisable.
Surgery (usually a last resort) or pain medications may be an option for you, but if your condition means that you must learn to live with chronic flare-ups of sciatic pain, you will want to find a few natural, noninvasive alternatives to help you cope with it, find relief and enjoy life.
The Water—Controlling the Fire
If you allow it to control you, your struggle with chronic flare-ups can lead to depression and a loss of interest in life.
This does not have to be the case. You can manage and control your pain and live a fulfilling life full of things you enjoy.
One of the first things you must do is face your struggle with sciatica with a positive attitude.
Never give up on your pursuit of an active, enjoyable respite, even when you are downed by a particularly severe flare-up.
Spend as much time as possible doing things that will make a difference and that you enjoy to take your mind off of your pain.
Allowing it to fill your mind will only make it worse and steal from you everything but itself.
Aside from these basics of bolstering your mental and emotional strength, below you will find several natural treatments that you may find help you control and relieve your pain.
Of course, it is important to first check with your doctor before trying any alternative treatment.
Understanding the root cause of your sciatica is also important in discovering how to manage it, and your doctor’s diagnosis will be an essential starting point.
Chiropractic Care, Massage, and Acupuncture
A study in the Official Journal of the North American Spinal Society found that of those involved with the study, those who received chiropractic adjustments suffered less pain and had more pain-free days than participants who did not.
A good chiropractic doctor will work on alignments that will reduce the pressure and pinches that cause sciatica.
Massage therapy and acupuncture have also been found helpful for reducing and managing chronic sciatic pain as they relax your muscles and improve blood and energy flow throughout your body.
Heating Pads and Cooling Packs
Applying a cold pack to your areas of pain can help to reduce the pain by decreasing inflammation and numbing the uncomfortable muscles.
It is usually one of the first applications sciatica sufferers turn to and can be quite effective.
You may also find that a heating pad applied to the area of pain helps to alleviate it.
Heat alleviates sciatica symptoms by dilating the blood vessels and relaxing your muscles. Some people find it most effective to alternate between cold and hot applications.
A cold or hot application should be applied for not more than twenty minutes about every two hours, or for fifteen minutes on fifteen minutes off over the course of one hour.
Be careful to place a towel or some other soft material between the heating pad, hot water bottle, ice or cold pack and your skin to avoid damaging the skin with extreme temperatures.
Strengthening and Stretching Exercises
Strengthening your core muscles and keeping yourself flexible can go a long way toward reducing sciatic pain and flare-ups.
Be careful not to overdo it when you are suffering from sciatic pain or too push yourself so hard you trigger a flare-up.
Moderate, regular exercises and frequent stretching add up to a much healthier and more pain-free existence.
Exercises and movements that worsen sciatica seem to be those that involve crunching or shortening your spine, like lifting and squatting.
Stretching, on the other hand, has been often been found to reduce pain by relaxing, strengthening and making your muscles more flexible.
As always, check with your doctor before embarking on an exercise routine. Yoga is generally a great choice for those suffering from sciatica and is even used in rehabilitation for patients recovering from surgeries related to sciatica.
A gentle self-massage/stretching exercise using foam rollers may work to take the edge off of your sciatic pain and prevent a flare-up by strengthening and relaxing your muscles.
Sit on the floor with the foam roller under your thighs, and use your hands and feet to move your body, rolling your legs and buttocks across the roller five to ten times or for one minute.
Stretch out on your side and repeat the process with the foam roller rolling under the outside of your thigh and calf.
Flip onto your stomach and repeat process, moving over the foam roller from your hips to your knees.
The foam roller may also be used in exercises involving your upper and lower back.
Managing chronic sciatica to the point where you can live a relatively pain-free life is going to require constant dedication from you. You will have to keep on top of it to keep it from sidelining you.
Movement is important to reducing sciatic pain. Try to avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time and instead get moving.
You can alternate periods at your desk with short walks or a brief stretching routine. Don’t let pressure and stiffness build up in your muscles and trigger a flare-up.
Take the initiative to live a healthier life overall. If you are over your optimal weight, make plans to cut back until you have reached it.
Eat a wholesome, nutrient-rich diet and make sure you are lying down and getting plenty of sleep at night.
Be prepared to jump on the slightest flare-up of pain with an ice pack, heating pad, yoga exercise or trip to your massage therapist—whatever treatment you have found to work best for you. And count good days rather than bad ones. Cultivate and attitude of gratitude.
Understanding of options for quenching the flames of your sciatica flare-ups continue to expand. Thank you for checking out the options explored here.
Hopefully they will be helpful for you as you seek to take control of your pain and make the most of every day in spite of it.