7 tips for sciatica pain
40% of people will have sciatica at least once in their life. It is a pain that follows the path of the sciatic nerve to the back of the thigh. Most sciatica pains go away quickly, but some can last for months or years. In any case, the pain usually is a sign that something is wrong in the back, so it is recommended to go see your chiropractor, even if the crisis is over. While waiting for your session, and to promote healing, here are 7 tips to improve your sciatica:
1 Heat and cold
Both heat and cold are effective against sciatica pain, although they have no effect in healing the problem. It is an inexpensive solution when looking for immediate relief while waiting to resolve the underlying problem. The hot or cold pack is to be applied in the lumbar region from where the sciatic nerves come out. In case of an inflammatory problem, it is better to favor cold and avoid heat – which will provide temporary relief but may worsen the inflammation. If you experience numbness in the leg when applying the pack, remove it immediately. Never place ice directly on the skin, and don’t leave the pack for more than 15 minutes in a row on your lower back.
2 Physical activity
Physical rest for more than a day tends to make sciatica worse. Any physical activity will help as long as it doesn’t make the pain worse. Ideally, combining strength training, flexibility and aerobic workouts allows complete physical preparation that can help you even more. Try to avoid impact sports.
Strengthening the deep muscles of the entire body also enables very significant improvement in stability and posture, which translates to an improvement in sciatica. Deep muscles are found throughout the body and are not limited to the abdominals. Work the deep and superficial buttocks muscles, the pelvis, the back muscles, the obliques, and the abdomen to strengthen your core muscles and reduce sciatica pain.
Positions where the torso and head are leaning forward, or where the lumbar region is slumped are your back’s worst enemies. This is especially true for your intervertebral discs, which, when damaged are responsible for sciatica.
Remember to maintain good sitting and standing posture by placing relaxed shoulders to the back and down. The head should be in line with the body. In a seated position, put the ischia (buttocks bone) well back when you sit down and choose between having your legs wide apart or completely glued together to stabilize the lower back.
4 Avoid being in a seated position.
Sitting is very stressful for the intervertebral discs. It is therefore recommended to pay attention to your posture when you are sitting and to get up regularly to take a few steps. Try not to exceed 30 minutes of sitting down in a row, and use your legs to get up. You can also use your arms on your knees or the armrests. Don’t get up too quickly, and relax your muscles while walking.
5 Weight control
Being overweight increases the risk of sciatica, and people who are overweight tend to heal more slowly. Weight increases the pressure on the lower back and therefore on the intervertebral discs, which can worsen a hernia (responsible for sciatica). Even minor weight loss can really help relieve sciatica pain.
If you have sciatica, you may have noticed how difficult it is to lift your stretched leg towards the side of sciatica. It therefore understandable that people with sciatica try to avoid stretching.
Fortunately, there are some stretches that can be done with most cases of sciatica. They relax the back of the thigh – hamstrings – thereby reducing the pressure on the sciatic nerve. Indeed, pain tends to contract the different thigh muscles, which start to crush the sciatic nerve and therefore worsen the pain.
The suggested stretching exercises will help avoid losing leg mobility and maybe even reduce sciatica pain. First of all, sit completely on the edge of a rigid chair. Rest the foot of your pain-free leg on the ground and put the heel of the painful leg on the ground, leg straight and back completely straight. Pull your toes up and lean on your bent leg to keep your back straight. Orient your pelvis so that the buttocks move back and the navel is closer to your knees. If you still have room, imagine yourself pulled up and slightly forward. For the more adventurous, further increase the tension up and forward, always keeping your back straight and exaggerating the orientation of the pelvis. Always respect your limits while stretching.
Hamstring (back of the thigh) and glutes massages helps relax the muscles and reduce the pressure on the sciatic nerve. This can help relieve sciatica pain, although the underlying back problem will need to be addressed. You can massage the back of the thigh lengthwise or with “transverse” movements: in a 90° angle to the most sensitive areas. At the level of the buttock, the massage must be deep and circular at the level of the hollow of the buttock which is on the side, behind the bone. The use of a percussion massage device is effective but should be avoided if it pain starts radiating in the leg. Important! Sciatica can sometimes come from fairly serious disorders or illnesses. Never force, respect the pain and – unless advised by a doctor – do not exercise while on anti-inflammatory medication or painkillers, which mask the pain and can prevent you from recognizing when you’ve gone too far. Consult a specialist to make sure you don’t miss the diagnostic of a more serious problem and to support you in your recovery.