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Pinched Sciatic Nerve

Updated on March 14, 2010

Pinched Sciatic Nerve - What Happened?

A pinched sciatic nerve usually results from one of two major causes: a bulging disk in your spinal column pressing on the nerve, or a pinched sciatic nerve itself causing you pain. You know you're experiencing sciatica if you have tingling, pain, or a numb feeling in your lower back or buttocks area, and the unpleasant feelings runs down the back of your legs at least sometimes.

The sciatic nerve runs down most of your lower body, from your back to your ankles, and this is where your pain will originate from. You may also experience unusual weakness, constant numbness, or reduced reflexes.

Bulging Discs and Sciatica

A back stretch good for sciatia pain.
A back stretch good for sciatia pain.

A bulging, or herniated disk in your spin means that one of the many discs that make up the structure of your spine, and often causes sciatic pain when the nucleus of the disc slips out of the protective cartilage ring. Normally the spinal discs are strong enough to protect the nucleus, but constant pressure through heavy lifting or other stressors on your back can weaken one part of the cartilage, and the next time your spine is compressed and any pressure is put on it, the nucleus leaks out and can cause a pinched sciatic nerve by putting painful pressure on the sensitive nerves in your spine.

Sometimes a bulging disc will require back surgery to repair, but many other times being gentle on your back and letting a few weeks pass will be enough for the nucleus to pull back into the disc and alleviate any pinched sciatic nerve pressure.

Pinched Sciatic Nerves

Another reason you might have sciatica is that something else besides a bulging spinal disk is putting pressure on your sciatic nerve. Traumatic injuries like the jolting impact of a car crash can twist your back unnaturally and cause a pinched sciatic nerve, or arthritis or degenerative disc disease, both symptoms of aging, can weaken the spinal column and cause changes in the spinal cord and the discs that create constant pain running down the lower back. Pregnancy also changes the curvature of your spine and can put unaccustomed pressure on the sciatic nerves.

Yoga reduces many sufferers' sciatia pain.
Yoga reduces many sufferers' sciatia pain.

Pain Relief from Sciatica

A pinched sciatic nerve can be alleviated by refraining from compressing the spine, which is involved mainly in normal sitting positions, as well as some exercises, especially core and abdominal muscle workouts. For the most part, you will need to be either standing or lying down to find pain relief from sciatica.

Doing exercises that expand the spinal column can also train your body to create more space between individual discs, making it less likely that you will get pressure on your sciatic nerves. Do stretches, extend your spine, and try to sit as little as possible. Most pinched sciatic nerves can heal on their own, but bulging and especially herniated, or completely punctured, spinal discs may need to be treated in surgery.

Apart from stretching, over-the-counter pain medications, walking regularly, and applying ice or heat to your lower back if that helps you, there are few intermediary treatment options between self-treatment and back surgery, though your doctor may be able to prescribe you prescription pain medications if he or she believes that time will heal your spine.


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    • Neinahpets profile image

      Stephanie 4 years ago from Canada

      Very informative. Thanks for sharing!