Sciatica is a cluster of symptoms — including pain, numbness, tingling, and loss of sensation — that occurs when the sciatic nerve in the lower back gets compressed or irritated. A herniated disc is the most common culprit, but bone spurs and tumors can also compress your sciatic nerve.
Diabetics with poorly controlled blood sugar levels can also develop sciatica, as high blood sugar damages nerves.
Fortunately, most people can recover from sciatica from the comfort of their own homes. Many sciatica cases stem from lifestyle choices, such as the type of job you have or the amount of exercise you get weekly.
Here, Bonaventure Ngu, our Premier Spine Institute expert, shares some of the ways you can improve your chronic pain caused by sciatica.
Invest in a standing desk
Sitting down for prolonged periods puts pressure on your sciatic nerve and irritates it. If you can, consider investing in a standing desk to take some pressure off your sciatic nerve.
Alternatively, every 30 minutes or so, stand up for a few minutes before going back to work to relieve the pressure on your back.
Tweak your diet
If you’re diabetic, reducing your intake of carbohydrates under the guidance of a nutritionist can help reduce your blood sugar levels. Reducing blood sugar spikes lowers the risk of nerve damage.
Being overweight or obese can also contribute to pressure in your lower back, especially if you carry extra pounds around your midsection. Losing weight may also help improve your symptoms.
Alternate between ice and hot pads
If your back is inflamed, cold packs can reduce inflammation and pain. To avoid frostbite, wrap the ice pack in a towel. Switch to hot pads to stimulate blood flow and tissue healing.
During the first few days after a sciatica flare-up, you might find it hard to move around due to pain. However, after the pain diminishes, gentle stretches can preserve your muscle strength and encourage blood flow to the area, speeding up the healing process.
Excessive sitting and resting are risk factors for sciatic pain, so as soon as you recover, find a form of exercise you enjoy.
Get help for your chronic sciatic nerve pain
Lifestyle changes can’t fix all sciatic nerve pain. If your pain persists for more than a week, contact us to schedule an appointment. Dr. Ngu can help you fight off pain with either oral medications or epidural steroid injections, which can eliminate pain for a few months at a time.