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How to Manage Sciatica and Lower Your Risk of Flare-ups

Sciatica is pain that travels along the sciatic nerve, which travels down the back of the leg. It happens when the sciatic nerve is compressed by a herniated disc or bone spur. When it’s severe, sciatica can negatively impact your work productivity and interfere with your ability to enjoy your favorite activities.

Pain management physician Michael Pylman, MD, and our team at Lynx Healthcare understand how the excruciating pain of sciatica affects daily life. We work with you to manage your pain so you feel and function better.

What is sciatica?

The sciatic nerve is the largest and longest nerve in the body. It leaves the spinal cord, splits and travels down through the left and right buttock and runs down the entire length of the back of both legs. 

Sciatica commonly occurs when the sciatic nerve is compressed at the base of the spine. This causes pain described as sharp and shooting, or jolts of pain. It may also feel like a burning or electric sensation. The pain may be persistent, or it may come and go.

Conditions that may cause sciatica include:

Seeking help from a medical professional is the best way to manage sciatica. In the meantime, there are some things you can do to manage your symptoms and reduce the risk of flare-ups.

Stay active

When you have low back pain, being active may be the last thing you want to do. However, staying active keeps your muscles strong and your back stable. It not only helps with sciatica pain, but regular activity helps to keep flare-ups at bay. Reducing your activity and being inactive for too long can make sciatica worse. 

Avoid strenuous exercise that may cause pain. Instead, opt for gentle activity like walking and stretching, even if only for short periods of time. You can work on gradually increasing your amount of physical activity.

Try therapeutic stretches

Certain exercises can help ease the pressure on the sciatic nerve to reduce pain and lower the risk of flare-ups. Talk to your doctor before trying any new stretches or exercises. 

Spine stretch

The seated spine stretch is performed while seated on the floor with legs outstretched and toes pointed toward the ceiling. Place your right leg, bent at the knee, over your left leg so that your right foot is on the outside of your left knee. 

To complete the stretch place your left elbow on the right knee, lean forward and turn your torso to the right. You should feel the stretch in your spine. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds before switching to the other side. 

Knee-to-shoulder stretch

The knee-to-shoulder stretch is performed by lying on your back on a flat surface with your legs outstretched and feet pointed toward the ceiling. Clasp your hands behind the knee of your right leg and pull your knee toward your left shoulder. You should feel the stretch in your buttocks. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds before switching legs.

It’s important to avoid stretching to the point of pain. The goal is to ease the compression on your sciatic nerve through gentle stretches.

Even for people with severe pain, sciatica is treatable. At Lynx Healthcare, sciatica patients receive top-quality care. Treatment focuses on managing pain and keeping you active so that you can continue engaging in activities that you enjoy. The good news is that for most people, symptoms improve over the course of several weeks. 

If you’re struggling with sciatica, we can help you get relief. To get started, reach out to our office in Albuquerque, New Mexico, by phone or request an appointment online today. 

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