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Sciatica! It sends shivers down your spine quite literally. If you’re wincing from pain that shoots through your lower back down to your legs, you may be one of many grappling with this common culprit of agony. But what exactly is sciatica, and how can you alleviate the pain and prevent it from hijacking your life?

What is Sciatica?

First, it is important to note that sciatica is not a standalone condition or diagnosis. Sciatica describes the symphony of symptoms stemming from the compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. The cause of this compression or irritation is the underlying reason for your pain and defines the type of treatment you will need to feel better.

The sciatic nerve begins in your lower spine and travels through your buttocks down to your feet. It is the body’s longest and largest nerve, and when it’s injured or irritated, it does not whisper – it roars. The specific characteristics of sciatica include a pain that originates in the back or buttocks and travels down the leg. Sufferers typically report pain on one side of the body which may worsen with sitting, coughing, or sneezing. The pain, often depicted as a sharp or burning sensation, might be accompanied by tingling, pins and needles, numbness, muscle weakness and even incontinence! The symptoms are as diverse as its potential causes, which range from bulging disks to the physical strain of pregnancy.

Woman lifting several boxes incorrectly and experiencing sciatica pain

What Makes Sciatica Worse?

Numerous factors can exacerbate sciatica, including obesity, an inactive lifestyle, smoking, and sleeping on a mattress that is too soft or too firm. Risk factors like age, twisting your back or lifting heavy loads at work, and even diabetes, can intensify your discomfort.

What Can Bring Relief?

Heat and ice therapy, over-the-counter medications, and proper posture are accessible first steps in managing the pain. Additionally, physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight can lead to significant improvements. Embedding core strengthening exercises into your daily routine can also provide relief. Strong core muscles take the pressure off your spine and can reduce the risk of many of the types of injury that cause sciatica.

woman sitting at computer desk with books on her head demonstrating excelling sitting posture.

Treatment Options for Sciatica

For most, the agony can wane without surgical intervention. Conservative treatments include physical therapy and medications, while epidural steroid injections offer a more intermediate solution. You may consider surgery if all else fails or if your quality of life severely declines.

It’s crucial to remember that the path to improvement isn’t one-size-fits-all. Exercise therapy, chiropractic adjustments, yoga, acupuncture, and massage therapy offer a unique way to engage the body’s innate healing processes. These conservative treatments are key players in the management of sciatica, striving to provide both immediate comfort and long-term relief.

physiotherapist working with patient. They are doing side planks to strengthen core muscles and prevent sciatica pain

Your Role in Sciatic Nerve Pain Management

Complications from sciatica, such as ongoing pain or muscle weakness, can indeed cast long shadows over one’s quality of life. Avoiding these dark outcomes means investing time into prevention. Maintaining good posture, staying active, and allowing for recovery when back pain first whispers its warning signs will help minimize sciatic nerve pain.

Engage in regular exercise to activate and engage the core muscles supporting your spine, and practice good posture to relieve pressure on your lower back. If you spend hours sitting, change positions often and, if necessary, take breaks to move around. Adopt a holistic approach to health, with sufficient rest periods to speed recovery when needed.

Avoid tobacco products, ensure you’re lifting objects with correct form to avoid strain, and equip yourself with knowledge. The more informed you are about your condition, the more empowered you are to make decisions that benefit your health.


Navigating the waters of sciatica involves understanding the condition, recognizing risk factors, engaging in preventative efforts, and exploring a spectrum of treatments. Remember, while the pain might be profound and sometimes lead to complications, most people recover within a few weeks.

For persistent or severe pain, especially if accompanied by additional symptoms such as muscle weakness or loss of bowel or bladder control, seeking medical care is imperative. With the right advice and action, you’re on your way to reclaiming comfort and command of your well-being.

Your Health is Your Wealth

Remember, your pursuit of relief is not a solitary expedition. Please, if you are burdened by the weight of sciatic discomfort, reach out to one of our physiotherapists today and book an initial assessment.

Written By: DeVera Nybo, MBA, Owner Newleaf Total Wellness Centre.

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