5 Ways to Manage a Sciatica Flare-Up

5 Ways to Manage a Sciatica Flare-Up

Sciatica robs you of your joy for life because its symptoms can be life-altering: Severe leg, hip, and back pain and numbness, weakness, and cramping are enough not only to keep you from doing what you love, from sports to favorite hobbies.

But it can also put a halt to performing even everyday tasks that should be easy, like cooking or sitting and watching a movie.

Our healing team of Billy Reilly, MS, PT, and Paul LaRosa, MS, PT, at Empire Physical Therapy & Athletic Rehabilitation offers orthopedic physical therapy for a wide range of conditions. And sciatica, which 40% of Amercians suffer from at some point, is one. 

We’re dedicated to finding treatments that are highly customized to your specific situation and building a relationship that’s a true partnership

What is sciatica?

We mentioned some of the most limiting symptoms of this condition, but why does it happen? First, a bit of anatomy. 

Your sciatic nerve is your body’s thickest and longest, and it’s really a nerve bundle that’s connected to five nerve roots extending from your spinal cord, rather than a single one. 

You have a sciatic nerve that runs down both sides of your body, through your hips, buttocks, and down your leg, stopping below your knee and dividing into other nerves that connect to your lower leg and foot. 

Sciatica can affect any nerve attached to the sciatic nerve, and that’s why pain can reach so many areas of your body, from your hips and back to your buttocks, legs, and even feet. 

One reason so many people suffer from sciatica is that a multitude of conditions cause it, including: 

An injury can also lead to sciatica, and even being pregnant can fuel symptoms. 

You’re at higher risk for sciatica if you’re overweight or obese, live with diabetes, have a sedentary lifestyle, or work at a job that requires lots of lifting, bending, or sitting for prolonged periods with insufficient back support. 

If you don’t have a strong core or you perform activities like strength training without using proper form, you’re also at risk for sciatica.

5 strategies to combat sciatica flare-ups

There are things you can do to help control your sciatica pain and other unpleasant symptoms. We particularly like these:

Change the temperature

Alternating heat and ice therapy can alleviate sciatica pain. Heat helps blood vessels dilate, improves blood, oxygen, and nutrient flow, enhances nerve function, and reduces muscle spasms.

Over-the-counter medication has its place

Using ibuprofen or aspirin can ease both inflammation and pain that you endure with sciatica.

Move, but do it right

When you’re suffering from a sciatica flare, movement is good, but it needs to be the proper kind. If your pain isn’t severe, you may stretch, walk, or do other gentle exercises, but be mindful not to overdo it. 

Stretches designed for your lower back are especially helpful, since that’s likely the place where your sciatic nerve is getting compressed. 

Pampering has its place

A massage can ease sciatica symptoms, because it not only soothes pain, but improves blood flow (which plays a key role in healing). A massage by a pro helps you move your lower back more easily and comfortably. 

Seek treatment from a physical therapist

This one’s not a surprise, is it? The truth is that physical therapy offers sciatica relief on several fronts. Working with us helps improve your balance and flexibility, addresses posture issues, and enhances back support. 

We also introduce exercises and stretches that successfully address symptoms, including ones you can do at home.

Physical therapy is an option many sciatica patients choose if they don’t want to deal with the side effects of prescription medications and steroid injections, or if other treatments have been unsuccessful.

We examine how you walk, whether your posture contributes to sciatica discomfort, how well your back is supported, and the strength of your core. We offer a functional movement screen, which allows us to identify issues to target that may be contributing to your sciatica pain. 

With proper care, we can help you restore your muscle function and make your pain and flexibility problems things of the past. 

Imagine what it would be like to be free from worry about sciatica symptoms and not having to give a second thought to doing whatever you want to do. With caring treatment from our team, it’s not just a dream, but reality.

Call our Midtown East office in Manhattan, New York City, at 607-602-1330 to set up a consultation, or request one online. For your convenience, we offer both early morning and later evening appointments.

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