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How do I Treat a Pinched Sciatic Nerve?

Treating a pinched sciatic nerve involves rest, gentle stretches, and over-the-counter pain relief. Heat and ice therapy can reduce inflammation, while physical therapy strengthens supporting muscles. In severe cases, a doctor may recommend injections or surgery. Each step towards relief is a journey—what might your path to recovery look like? Explore with us as we navigate the healing process together.
Sarah Sullins
Sarah Sullins

Pinched sciatic nerve treatment often includes the use of ice, heat, pain relief through medication, proper support, and bed rest. Certain types of exercises and stretching may also be used to relieve and treat this condition. A few causes of sciatica may require surgery.

A pinched sciatic nerve is typically caused by something putting pressure on some part of the sciatic nerve, the body's longest. The pain associated with it is known as sciatica. There are many causes for sciatica; most of them are relatively mild and typically resolve in a little more than a month.

A pinched sciatic nerve may require heat, cold, and medication.
A pinched sciatic nerve may require heat, cold, and medication.

A person suffering from a pinched sciatic nerve may use ice during the first couple of days of pain. Heat may also be effective at relieving pain caused by sciatica, especially if muscle spasms occur with the pain. Muscle spasms can make the feeling of pain worse and may even be the cause of the pinched nerve. Heat often is able to relax the muscles and lessen the amount of pain that a person experiences.

Bed rest is recommended for a pinched sciatic nerve.
Bed rest is recommended for a pinched sciatic nerve.

Certain non-prescription medications may be used to relieve the pain associated with sciatica. These can be anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin. If these do not work, a doctor may prescribe prescription-strength pain relievers, prescription anti-inflammatory drugs, or muscle relaxants. For extreme cases of sciatica, a corticosteroid injection may be required.

Some types of exercises may be performed to relieve the pain associated with a pinched sciatic nerve.
Some types of exercises may be performed to relieve the pain associated with a pinched sciatic nerve.

Those who suffer from a pinched sciatic nerve may find that it is difficult to sit in a soft chair, because it hurts them to do so. This is because a hard, supportive surface is needed to keep a person from aggravating the condition even more. A firm chair and mattress can help to keep the muscles and joints along the sciatic nerve where they should be.

If the sciatic nerve becomes irritated, it can cause pain and numbness down the leg.
If the sciatic nerve becomes irritated, it can cause pain and numbness down the leg.

Doctors sometimes recommend bed rest. Lying on a firm mattress with a pillow under the legs can relieve the amount of pain a person feels from a pinched sciatic nerve. Too much bed rest can be hard on the muscles, though, causing them to become weak. For this reason, certain types of exercises and stretches are usually recommended. These exercises and stretches can loosen muscles, correct the positions of the vertebrae, and relieve pain associated with sciatic nerve problems.

Over-the-counter pain medicines, such as ibuprofen, can be used to treat a pinched sciatic nerve.
Over-the-counter pain medicines, such as ibuprofen, can be used to treat a pinched sciatic nerve.

Surgery is typically a last resort but, in some cases, it is needed. Doctors usually begin to discuss surgery if the problem causing the sciatic is severe and causes other problems, such as loss of bladder control. Another reason for surgery is if all other treatments for sciatic nerve pain have been tried and failed to work.

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Discussion Comments

TruthRoller
Sciatic nerve pain may occur because a disc, often L4, L5, or S1, is askew and pushing on the nerve. This happened to me after pregnancy. I had a a tailbone injury when I was a kid and I think being pregnant reawakened that old injury and exacerbated it. I was having the most horrible pain running down my lower back, glutes, and back of the thigh, sometimes all the way down to my calf.

I had always been very healthy and athletic so dealing with this kind of injury, which at the time, seemed to come out of nowhere, was very difficult and frustrating. I saw doctors and went to physical therapy for months, and nothing really helped. I would either need to live with a constant pain or consider surgery. Then I had a chance meeting with an amazing chiropractor at Thanksgiving dinner one year! Right there, on the floor, next to the dinner table, he performed some AIS techniques (active isolated stretching) on me. I felt some pops and cracks and remarkably, I was 95 percent better after that! And I have been ever since - that was about three years ago.

I've since read that by performing some of these techniques, the disc can be coaxed back into position by the surrounding muscles. Fascinating stuff!

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    • A pinched sciatic nerve may require heat, cold, and medication.
      By: underdogstudios
      A pinched sciatic nerve may require heat, cold, and medication.
    • Bed rest is recommended for a pinched sciatic nerve.
      By: april_89
      Bed rest is recommended for a pinched sciatic nerve.
    • Some types of exercises may be performed to relieve the pain associated with a pinched sciatic nerve.
      By: BlueSkyImages
      Some types of exercises may be performed to relieve the pain associated with a pinched sciatic nerve.
    • If the sciatic nerve becomes irritated, it can cause pain and numbness down the leg.
      By: rob3000
      If the sciatic nerve becomes irritated, it can cause pain and numbness down the leg.
    • Over-the-counter pain medicines, such as ibuprofen, can be used to treat a pinched sciatic nerve.
      By: Geo Martinez
      Over-the-counter pain medicines, such as ibuprofen, can be used to treat a pinched sciatic nerve.