According to The Cleveland Clinic, around 40% of all Americans will suffer from a level of sciatic pain during their life. Sciatic pain is a nagging pain that can significantly impact quality of life.
Luckily, there are various ways to address and treat sciatic pain. Read on to learn more.
What is Sciatica? An Overview
Sciatica buttock pain is numbness, tingling and/or pain that is due to irritation and inflammation of the sciatic nerve.
It exits your spinal cord in your lower back and travels out toward your hip and then down the back of your leg to your foot. The sciatic nerve is the largest and longest nerve in the human body.
There is a sciatic nerve on both sides of your body and either one or both can be affected. The nerve can be irritated or inflamed for many reasons including a herniated disc or piriformis syndrome.
Sciatica buttock pain can last a couple days or a couple months and the pain can vary from mild to intense.
All factors considered, sciatic buttock pain can have a large impact on a person’s life. Fortunately, there are treatment options for sciatic buttock pain.
Types of Sciatic Nerve Pain in the Buttocks
The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body and as it spans the entire back of the body, there are three pain areas that the sciatic nerve can cause pain.
Sciatica Back Pain
The sciatic nerve branches off the spinal cord in the lumbar area of the low back between the lumbar vertebra. Pain can be caused by the nerve being irritated or pinched in the canal where the nerve exits the spine.
This can be caused by trauma or arthritis over time. The pain may stay local to the low back and can feel like a burning, cramp or stabbing pain.
The timeline of recovery from sciatic back pain can be variable. For some, the pain resolves within a few days, but for others, it could take weeks.
Sciatica Pain In Buttocks
As the sciatic nerve travels out of the low back area, it extends laterally and can cause sciatic pain in the buttocks area. The nerve goes to the left and the right.
Sciatic pain in the buttocks can be on the right, left or both depending on the situation for the person. The pain might feel like burning or sharp pain in the buttocks area that is not often relieved by position changes.
Sciatic pain in the buttocks is very common in pregnant women. The size and weight of the abdomen as well as the changes in the pelvic bones can cause pressure and irritation of the sciatic nerve.
Unfortunately, sciatic pain in the buttock related to pregnancy will often not resolve until after the baby is born.
Sciatica Leg Pain
The sciatic nerve continues down the back of each leg and all the way to the foot. As it courses down the leg, the sciatic nerve can cause pain.
Often, sciatic leg pain is worst in the back of the upper leg or thigh area. The pain would be a burning or cramping type pain that can be localized or radiate down the leg. Sciatic leg pain can last a few weeks or a few days.
Diagnosing Sciatic Pain
Self diagnosing sciatic pain is not completely fail safe but can be completed by doing a Sciatic Straight Leg Raise Test.
1. Start by laying flat on the floor or the bed.
2. Keep affected leg as straight as possible and slowly start to raise it in the air while keeping the knee straight.
3. Make note of when back or leg pain starts.
If the pain starts anywhere between 30 degrees and 70 degrees of hip flexion, there is a clinical significant correlation to nerve impingement. This means that more than likely, there is a component of sciatic pain involved.
Medical diagnosis of sciatic pain would be done by a physician through various tests. This would include an x-ray, EMG, CT scan or MRI. The physician will decide if or when the appropriate testing should be ordered.
How to Relieve Sciatica Pain in the Buttocks
Sciatic pain can be relieved by various mechanisms and the response to the treatment will vary by person and severity of their sciatic pain. Here are the top trips to relieve sciatic pain.
Improving posture in a neutral spinal alignment can decrease the pressure or irritation on the sciatic nerve and decrease the pain.
Completing sciatic stretches can help relieve sciatic pain. The best stretch to try is the figure 4 stretch.
Sitting on the floor or in a chair, take the affected leg and put the ankle on the opposite side thigh. This will make a figure 4 with your legs.
Gently, push down on the affected knee and there will be a stretching sensation through the buttock where the pain is.
As counterintuitive as it might seem, movement is one of the best ways to relieve sciatic pain. Muscles and joints are in their best shape when they are in motion.
Stopping that movement has the potential to make the pain even worse. Low impact movement like walking or swimming is the best option to relieve sciatic pain.
Treatment for Sciatica
Treating sciatic pain at home is appropriate near the onset of symptoms. It is important to start home treatment as soon as the symptoms start in order to decrease the inflammation and irritation of the nerve which causes the sciatic pain in the low back, buttocks and posterior leg.
Using heat is a great way to treat sciatic nerve pain. Heat can relax the muscles that are cramped or irritated due to the nerve pain.
Heat is safe and non-invasive treatment. Using a heating pad or even a warm bath can improve the pain.
Sciatic pain is increased by additional irritation or swelling of the sciatic nerve. Using cold therapy can decrease the irritation and decrease the pain.
Ice packs are sold in various shapes and sizes or using the regular bag of frozen vegetables could work too!
Alternating Hot and Cold
Going back and forth between hot and cold treatments might be the best of both worlds for those that suffer from sciatic nerve pain.
Using 20 minutes of heat therapy followed by 20 minutes of cold therapy two or three times per day is a great way to address sciatic nerve pain.
Over the Counter Medications
Using anti-inflammatory medications is appropriate if there are no contraindications to using these medications. Decreasing the inflammation can have an impact on pain.
Speaking with your doctor before starting any medication is advised.
When to Visit a Physician for Sciatica Pain?
There are times when it would be necessary to see a physician for sciatic nerve pain.
It would be appropriate to make an appointment for sciatic nerve pain that continues for an excessive period of time, gets worse over time instead of better, when conservative treatments at home do not have an impact and when the pain is having a negative impact on daily life. The doctor might use a few different treatment options.
Medical Treatment for Sciatic Pain
The doctor might prescribe steroid injections into the nerve that would decrease the inflammation and irritation to minimize the sciatic nerve pain.
The doctor might send you to receive physical therapy.
A licensed physical therapist will be able to assess the pain, cause of the pain and then address it with manual treatments. They are able to address the underlying cause of the pain as well. This will improve the current and future pain related to sciatic nerve irritation.
As a last resort, a doctor might think surgery is required for sciatic nerve pain. Surgery would be done to decrease the irritation of the sciatic nerve as it exits the spine or where it is compressed by muscles in the buttocks. Again, speaking to a doctor is the best way to get this process started.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does Sciatic Pain Last?
Sciatic pain can last anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks. The duration is dependent on many factors and unreliable to predict.
What is the fastest way to cure Sciatica?
Curing sciatic is a complex issues, but using conservative home treatments at the onset of symptoms is the best way to slow the progression and decrease the duration of pain.
What Triggers Sciatica?
Sciatic pain can be triggered by many issues including poor posture, anatomical differences, arthritis, congential issues, etc. Triggers are hard to predict and different for many people.
Is Sciatica Permanent?
In general, no, sciatica is not permanent. The pain will likely come and go over time. Once someone has an episode of sciatica, they are at risk to have additional symptoms return in the future.
Does Sciatica Go Away on its Own?
Commonly, sciatic will go away on its own over time. Again, conservative treatments can decrease the duration, but often, sciatic pain will go away. As discussed, if it does not, seeking a physician’s input is the next step.