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Why Is Sciatica So Painful?

04 January 2022

What is sciatica and why is it so painful? These are common questions asked by millions of sciatica sufferers worldwide. We want to dispel the myths about sciatica and help to give you truly helpful information that will alleviate pain and give you a better quality of life.

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is a pain caused by a problem with the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is a large nerve that runs from the spine, down the buttock and the leg. If your sciatic nerve becomes damaged at the spine, the pain can even be felt in your big toe - that’s how long and significant this nerve is. Sciatica occurs when the nerve is irritated, inflamed or compressed. A frequent cause of sciatica is when a herniated disc, a bone spur on the spine pushes into the sciatic nerve, compressing it. Consequently, pain, inflammation, pain, and an inability to properly put pressure on one leg is caused. Sciatic pain can be so bad in some cases that you could need crutches or assistance getting around the house.

Who gets Sciatica?

Research has shown that around 40% of us will get sciatica at some point in our lifetime. Furthermore, of that 40%, a third will go on to have problems after a whole year of diagnosis. This can be incredibly stressful for those affected.

Some people are more at risk of getting sciatica than others. For example, pregnant women are more prone to sciatica because the growing baby can put pressure on the pelvis and the sciatic nerve. Is it also more likely to occur in older people and is very rare in under 20s unless there has been a trauma to the body, such as a car accident.

Why is Sciatica so painful?

The sciatic nerve is not insignificant. Given its length and location, it has the ability to affect one entire side of the body from the spine down. Furthermore, it can be very difficult to treat, so pain killers may not work, meaning you suffer the sciatic pain more than you would with other types of pain. Given that we need our legs, pelvis and feet to walk and perform everyday tasks, we can notice sciatic pain a lot more. Even sitting still can be painful due to the fact that the nerve is being compressed in the lower back.

What Is The Treatment For Sciatica?

Treating sciatica is not straightforward and the pain can last several weeks before it gets better. As we already mentioned, in some cases, it can last more than a year. However, there are some things you can do at home to try and speed up recovery.

1) If you are pregnant, you may benefit from pregnancy pilates or pregnancy yoga. If you are attending a non-pregnancy activity please make sure you tell your instructor that you are pregnant and that you have sciatica, as they will customise your workout accordingly.

2) Go swimming. Gentle exercise like swimming is non-impacting on your sciatic nerve and will help to keep the muscles around it strong and stable.

3) Apply hot and cold packs. Use these packs against your lower back, even if your sciatic pain is in a different location such as your leg or foot. The pain is coming from your spine - even if you can’t feel it there. The hot and cold packs help to relax and decompress the nerve.

4) Use pain killers for nerve pain. Regular over the counter medication isn’t going to help your sciatic pain. If your pain is extreme,  you can speak to your family doctor about getting medication specifically for nerve pain. These painkillers can be very strong so it’s helpful to know this in advance.

5) Work from home. Sciatic pain might make it difficult for you to commute, but if you are working from home, you can get comfortable and crack on with your working day.

Working From Home with Sciatica

Whether your sciatic pain is temporary or chronic, working from home can help. However, you must ensure you are sat is an ergonomic chair for the sciatic pain to reduce. If you sit on a sofa, you could actually make the pain a lot worse. Ergonomic office chairs are designed to support your lower back and reduce any pressure placed onto your sciatic nerve. This comfortable sitting position can help speed up your sciatic recovery and make you more productive in the remote office.


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