Sciatica is a painful, often debilitating, condition involving the nerves in the lower back. There are several layers of treatment involving drugs, physically therapy, and occasionally surgery that can relieve symptoms. Often it is a combination of these things that offer the most relief.
Sciatica is a condition where a pinched nerve in the lower back causes pain and limited mobility. During flare ups or the acute phase, heavy muscle relaxants and pain killers may be necessary to control the pain and allow physical therapy to be done. As this is a somewhat serious condition, your physician should be consulted and supervise all treatment to ensure you are healing and not further damaging the area. In some instances surgery maybe required to fix the structural malformations causing the nerve disturbance.
Often pain killer and muscle relaxants will be used well into physical therapy to control inflammation and decrease pain so the therapy can be done at all. The use of heat and ice therapy to relax the stressed muscles caused by the nerve damage is often found helpful. Ice and heat therapy should be done in intervals of 20 minutes of applied heat or cold followed by at least 20 minutes of nothing. This can be done up to 6 times a day to offer relief.
The goal of physical therapy is to improve the flexibility and strength of the lower back area. This allows the body to better support the painful area and often relaxes tense contracted muscles allowing increased range of motion and a decrease in pain. In the acute stages a physical therapist should be consulted to ensure the exercises are appropriate and effective. In the beginning a certain level of pain while performing the exercise is to be expected but should be evaluated by a professional.
Once the sciatic has moved into a chronic condition exercise tends to be the best method of keeping flare ups at bay. Again, the goal of exercise being to strengthen the affected area and take pressure off the damaged nerves. This can be done with standard weight training techniques but newer exercises like pilates and yoga are gaining preference. These new exercises offer range of motion strength as opposed to static strength.
Exercising in conjunction with the periodic use of medications and ice or heat therapy are often sufficient to control painful episodes. However if episodes continue to occur or increase in pain, a physician should be consulted as the structural malformation may have degraded and more aggressive treatment like surgery may be in order.