The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest in the body, starting in the lower back and spreading down into the lower extremities. Because the sciatic nerve sends sensory and motor information throughout the lower body, sciatic nerve pain can be a major condition. Causes of sciatic nerve pain include muscle strains in the lower back and buttocks, but the most common causes of chronic problems are spine conditions such as herniated discs.
By causing shooting pain, leg pain, muscle cramps, and other symptoms, sciatic nerve pain can affect nearly every part of your daily life. The good news is there is a wide range of effective treatment options.
A very widely overlooked aspect of sciatic nerve pain is inflammation. While it is important to address the primary causes of sciatic nerve pain through treatment, taking steps to reduce inflammation in both the affected area and throughout the body is an essential part of finding relief.
Take a moment to read the following information on how to reduce inflammation for sciatic nerve pain. By taking control of your care you can be more empowered as a patient, letting you work more closely with your treatment team. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, please feel free to reach out.
The connection between inflammation and nerve pain
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to damaged tissue, infection, or any other perceived threats. Our bodies are designed to increase blood flow to an area and release certain chemicals that promote healing.
There is evidence that the inflammatory process also interacts with the nervous system. This means that conditions that cause irritation or compression of nerves, such as sciatic nerve pain, can create an inflammatory response that does not subside.
What’s more, there is a wide range of lifestyle factors that can increase inflammation in the body independently of sciatic nerve pain causes. These factors can actually increase the severity of nerve pain.
By adopting a comprehensive approach that helps to reduce inflammation both at the site of sciatic nerve compression and throughout the body, you can give yourself the best chance of finding long-term relief.
Conservative therapy to reduce inflammation in the sciatic nerves
Upon diagnosing a spine condition as the cause of sciatic nerve pain, doctors will recommend a course of nonsurgical therapy to relieve pain, reduce inflammation and decrease pressure on the nerves. Common options include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen play a key role in relieving pain related to inflammation
- Cold therapy, such as an ice pack, helps to reduce inflammation and numb the area on a temporary basis
- Heat therapy relaxes the area and increases blood flow to help the healing response
- Physical therapy helps strengthen the body and increase range of motion to relieve pain and improve function
- Therapeutic injections help to relieve inflammation and pain on a medium-term basis while the progression of sciatic nerve pain is monitored
Many people find relief from sciatic nerve pain by committing to a course of conservative therapy. It is also important to commit to a healthy lifestyle.
The importance of an anti-inflammatory, spine healthy lifestyle
Combining a comprehensive conservative treatment plan with the following anti-inflammatory lifestyle choices is a highly effective way to relieve pain:
- An anti-inflammatory diet — healthy foods including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, salmon, fiber have been shown to be effective for reducing inflammation. Turmeric, ginger, and green tea are just a few examples of highly potent natural anti-inflammatories.
- Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption — Tobacco products and alcohol are both associated with increased inflammation. Working with your doctor to develop a smoking cessation program and moderate alcohol intake can both help to relieve sciatic nerve pain.
- Getting regular exercise — Exercise helps improve cardiovascular health and nerve function. It can also help develop a stronger body and be a part of weight management.
It can take patience to develop an effective treatment plan to manage sciatic nerve pain, but many patients are able to find the lasting relief they deserve.
When to consider surgery for sciatic nerve pain
If weeks or months of treatment combined with committing to a healthy lifestyle does not bring the relief and reduced inflammation you need, it may be time to consider surgery. The goal of surgery for sciatic nerve pain is to access the spine and remove anatomy, such as herniated disc material, that is causing nerve pain.
Traditional approaches to sciatica surgery meant a highly invasive surgery with a large incision and significant muscle disruption. Thanks to advances in technology, it is now possible to perform minimally invasive procedures on an outpatient basis. This can help patients experience a shorter recovery and less risk of complications.
At BEST Health System, our team has extensive experience helping people dealing with sciatic nerve pain reclaim a healthy and active lifestyle. From pain-relieving injections to state-of-the-art minimally invasive outpatient procedures, we can help you develop an individualized treatment plan for long-term relief.
Contact us today to learn more.