It’s a pain that no one can see, a pain no one can understand unless they’ve experienced it. Sciatic nerve pain is one of the worst pains you will ever come across. Some days, the pain is so crippling you can’t move or walk correctly, and every small motion sends a stabbing, searing jolt of pain up and down your body. Nerve pain is one of the hardest pains to treat because it’s caused and experienced differently by everyone. Having suffered from nerve pain due to three herniated lumbar discs, I’ve found a few ways to cope with the crippling pain that faces me each day and make it more tolerable.
Steroids are a wonder drug to me but have their side effects. One of the best treatments for my nerve pain that I have been on is Prednisone, which reduces the inflammation in my back and thus, reduces pressure on the sciatic nerve. The only problem is you have to see your doctor and he/she must determine if this is the right course of action for you. Steroids are great for relief of the nerve pain because the cause of the pain is usually pressure on the nerve, the steroid reduces the pressure and thus the pain decreases. However, steroids are not a long-term solution to nerve pain because Prednisone specifically causes the adrenal gland to reduce function and weakens the immune system. But in order to move rather than suffer, steroids are a good option.
Lumbar Epidural Spinal injections are also form of steroids, but rather than taking a pill, you undergo a procedure where a needle is inserted into your lower back and medicine is put right into the source of the pain: the spinal column. This procedure must also be prescribed by your doctor and is relatively painless. It takes a total of about thirty minutes but you are not able to drive afterwards and need someone to escort you home. This is also another type of administration of steroids and may work better for some than the oral steroid Prednisone, which I referenced before. These shots can take up to two weeks to take effect and provide relief for different amounts of time depending on the person. There are a few mild side effects but it’s definitely worth a try. Some people only need one injection for pain relief while others may need multiple rounds in order to see complete relief.
However, if you aren’t under the care of a doctor for one reason or another, there are two great options that I have found work at home. The first, heat/ice therapy is a matter of preference and using what provides more pain relief for you. Depending on the severity of the nerve pain, I will often use a cold pack to numb the pain because it provides the most relief and reduces the inflammation for a short time. About twenty minutes an hour provides a good amount of nerve pain relief, enough for comfort at least. Other times, when the muscles in my back are tight and I have searing nerve pain I use a heating pad or a hot shower to ease the pain away. Though for many this might not seem like it would help, the heat relaxes the muscles in my back and reduces the amount of pressure that the muscles are placing on the nerve. It doesn’t necessarily reduce the inflammation but does ease the pain. Finding what works best for you is a matter of trial and error.
Another option at home is stretching your pain away. Reducing the pressure on the nerve by different stretching techniques can ease the pain. Though you may not want to move, moving is the best option. Examples of different exercises can be found on Spine-Health.com. Just be careful when you do these exercises, I went through weeks of physical therapy in order to learn some stretching techniques that I use to help but many of them are straightforward. Just be aware that if your pain increases, then you are probably doing the exercise incorrectly and should stop. A very useful tool in exercising here is a stability ball. It helps me stretch my back in ways that I wouldn’t normally be able to do on my own and aids in building core stability. Stretching and movement are great helps to ease nerve pain even though it seems like something impossible to do when you’re in severe pain.
The last option for relieving sciatic nerve pain is surgery. There are different types of surgery and your doctor will determine what the best option is for your condition. Personally, I have come to this option. Surgery should be used as a last resort when all avenues have been thoroughly exhausted and is something that should not be taken lightly as any surgery dealing with the back is considered a major surgery. The goal of the surgery is to reduce the amount of inflammation and pressure on the nerve from the source. Surgery is said to provide instant relief for most patients suffering from sciatica.
Dealing with nerve pain is a daily battle, there are some days where you feel like nothing and no one will be able to help you but these options above are avenues are ways to help you through the worst days. Finding what works for you is important and no one can tell you specifically what will work because every person is different. So try something new and exhaust all your options before considering surgery to relieve your nerve pain.