Treating Sciatica  

Sciatica is a common complaint, but that knowledge probably doesn’t ease the pain experienced by many clients of our Ottawa physiotherapy and sports medicine clinics. In fact, many of our clients who come to us with help for sciatica are frightened by a kind of pain that they’ve never felt before. The pain may get worse when you cough, or while you are sitting down. You may also experience numbness in your legs.

The long sciatic nerve carried messages from the spinal column down the legs, and when it becomes inflamed or pinched – usually by a degenerated or bulging disk, or a muscle spasm – the pain reverberates down its entire length. That’s what you’re feeling. But, take heart; there is help. Here’s what you need to know.

  • In the beginning, you may need a little extra rest on a firm mattress, but be sure to follow your Ottawa physiotherapist’s or other healthcare provider’s advice on how long, and what kinds of activities you should be focusing on. Too much rest can be harmful.
  • It may be difficult, but don’t be afraid of the pain. Your instinct may be to remain still to avoid pain, but lack of activity can actually hinder your recovery.
  • The good news is that, in the majority of cases, the condition will subside on its own, and your body will go back to normal functionality.
  • Imaging tests, such as an MRI, X-ray, or CT scan can confirm that there are compressed nerves and herniated discs.
  • Pain management can begin with over the counter medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen. If they do not provide sufficient relief, prescription medications can be used.
  • A corticosteroid injection directly into the area of the spine affected can reduce inflammation and provide relief for a few months at a time.

Physical therapies

There are a variety of physical therapies that can also help you to manage the pain. These can include,

  • Medical acupuncture;
  • Chiropractic treatment;
  • Massage therapy.

Stretching exercises are often of great benefit. Ask your Ottawa physiotherapist or other sports medicine specialist what exercises you can do to help ease sciatic pain. If you don’t improve within about six weeks or so, depending on your individual situation, your Ottawa physiotherapist or other treating healthcare professional can suggest other options.


Surgery can be performed to ease the compression or remove the material affecting the sciatic nerve. You may be impatient for recovery, but there are good reasons for delaying surgery.

  • Between 5 and 10 percent of patients will not be helped by surgery;
  • By the six to 12 month mark, studies show little difference between those who had surgery, and those who did not.

Sciatica is no joke. If you are living with the pain of sciatica, let our Ottawa physiotherapists, chiropractors, and other sports medicine specialists help you. Call one of our Ottawa clinics, or drop by today to make an appointment.


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