Sciatica is a common ailment in which pressure on the Sciatic nerve causes pain and numbness to radiate from the lower back through one or both legs. Sciatica can be acute, meaning it comes on suddenly and lasts only a short time, or chronic Sciatica, lasting for months or years. Sciatica pain relief is often sought out when acute Sciatica strikes because of its intense and debilitating nature. However, there are some steps you can take to get Sciatica relief that will help minimize your symptoms before they become too severe. Here are some techniques that will help relieve your Sciatica pain.
The sciatic nerve runs from your lower back to your hips and down your legs, bending at your knees. Sciatic pain occurs when there is a problem along this pathway. Sciatic nerve pain can become so severe and debilitating, you may not want to leave your couch. This condition is quite common, with a lifetime incidence between 10 and 40 percent.
The following are common causes of sciatica:
- Herniated Disk
- Spinal Stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal)
A condition called Piriformis syndrome can cause sciatic pain. The piriformis muscle runs from the bottom of your thigh to your buttocks, at the edge of the spine. This muscle can sometimes spasm and trap your sciatic nerve, which is nearby. This can lead to sciatica pain.
What Is Sciatica?
Sciatica refers to nerve pain that results from injury or irritation of the sciatic nerve. It is located in your buttock/gluteal region. The sciatic nerve, which is almost finger-wide, is the longest and most thick nerve in the body. It actually consists of five nerve roots. Two are located in the lower back, called the lumbar spine, and three are located at the end of the spine, called the sacrum.
These five nerve roots combine to create a right- and left sciatic nerve. One sciatic nerve runs along each side of your body. It runs through your hips, buttocks, and down your leg, finishing just below your knee. The sciatic nerve branches off into other nerves that run down your leg, into your foot, and into your toes.
Having the condition to the sciatic nerve “sciatica”, although it is rare, is common. However, the term “sciatica”, is used frequently to describe any pain that radiates down the legs from the lower back. This pain is caused by injury to a nerve. It can be an irritation, inflammation, or pinching of a lower back nerve.
This nerve runs through your lower back, hips, and legs and can cause mild to severe pain along its path. It can also lead to muscle weakness in your foot and leg, numbness and tingling sensations in your foot, leg, and toes.
Why Does Sciatica Pain Hurt
Sciatic nerves run from your lower back to your legs. Sciatica is caused by something pressing on them like a bone spur or a slipped disc. A burning sensation, weakness, numbness, or pain could occur. It could feel like pins and needles. Others describe it as feeling like an electric shock or being stabbed with knives. There are many ways to find relief, no matter how it feels.
How Prevalent is Sciatica?
Sciatica is very common. Approximately 40 percent of Americans suffer from sciatica at least once in their lives. The third most frequent reason that people visit their healthcare provider is back pain.
How Can Sciatica Be Treated?
The goal of treatment should be to reduce your pain and improve your mobility. Many cases of sciatica can be treated with self-care techniques, depending on the cause.
Read more below to know how you can relieve Sciatica pain using self-care methods.
Sciatica Self-Care Treatments
Hot Therapy and/or Ice Pack
Apply ice to reduce swelling and pain. Wrap a towel around the affected area with ice packs or frozen vegetable bags. You can apply for up to 20 minutes several times per day. Change to a heating pad or hot pad after a few days. For 20 minutes, apply the hot pack. If you are still experiencing pain, alternate between cold and hot packs to relieve your discomfort.
Use medicines to reduce inflammation, pain, and swelling. These include naproxen (Naprosyn (r), Aleve (r), and aspirin. Aspirin can cause bleeding so be careful. Some people may experience bleeding and ulcers from aspirin. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be used in place of NSAIDs if you are unable to use them.
An instructor who has experience with low back pain can show you how to do them. You can also do aerobic, core muscle strengthening, and general strengthening exercises.
Your healthcare provider might prescribe muscle relaxants such as Amrix(r), Flexeril (r) to ease the pain associated with muscle spasms. Tricyclic antidepressants (or anti-seizure medication) are two other options that can be used to relieve pain. Prescription pain medications may be included in your treatment plan early depending on the severity of your pain.
This is where the goal of physical therapy, which is to reduce sciatica by decreasing nerve pressure, is achieved. A program should include stretching exercises that improve muscle flexibility as well as aerobic exercises such as swimming, walking, and water aerobics. A physical therapist can be referred to you by your healthcare provider. They will work with you to create a stretching and aerobic exercise plan and also recommend exercises to strengthen your legs, back, and abdomen.
A corticosteroid injection, which is an anti-inflammatory medicine, can be injected into the lower back to reduce pain and swelling. Local anesthesia is used to provide pain relief for short periods (typically three months). As the injection is administered, you may feel some pressure or a burning or stinging sensation. Ask your healthcare provider for information about the number of injections that you may be allowed to have and the potential risks.
These alternative therapies are becoming more popular. They can be used to manage any kind of pain. Spine manipulation by a spine specialist, licensed chiropractor, yoga, and acupuncture are all possible ways to reduce sciatic pain. Massage may help with muscle spasms, which are common in sciatica. Biofeedback can be used to manage stress and pain.
Stretches You Can Do to Relieve Sciatica Pain
Knee To Opposite Shoulder
This simple stretch can help relieve sciatica pain. It involves loosening the gluteal, piriformis, and other muscles that can cause inflammation and press against sciatic nerves.
- Place your hands on your stomach and flex your toes upward.
- Place your right leg on the ground and wrap your hands around your knee.
- Gently move your right leg towards your left shoulder by gently pulling it across your body. For 30 seconds, hold it there. Maintain your straight knee as much as possible. It should feel like a relaxing stretch in your muscles, not pain.
- Keep your knee bent and your leg straight so that it returns to its original position.
- Continue for 3 reps and then switch legs.
Spinal Stretch (Sitting)
Sciatica pain occurs when the vertebrae of the spine become compressed. This allows the spine to stretch, which relieves pressure on the sciatic nerve.
1. Place your legs straight out on the ground, with your feet bent upwards.
2. Place your right foot on the outside of the opposite knee, and bend your right knee.
3. To help you turn your body towards the right, place your left elbow on your right knee.
4. For 30 seconds, hold the position and then repeat three times. Then switch sides.
Standing Hamstring Stretch
This stretch can be used to ease sciatica-related tightness and pain in the hamstring.
- Place your right foot on a surface that is elevated at or below your hip level. You could use a chair, ottoman, or step on a staircase to place your right foot. Your toes should be straightened so that your leg and toes are aligned. Keep your knee slightly bent if you notice that your knee is hyper extendable.
- Your body should be slightly bent toward your foot. The deeper you stretch, the further you can go. Don’t go too far to the point of feeling pain.
- Instead of lifting your hip up, release the hip of your raised leg down. You can help your hips relax by putting a yoga or exercise band under your left foot and wrapping it around your right thigh.
- For at least 30 seconds, hold the position and then move on to the opposite side.
Begin by laying down on a chair, and then cross your injured leg over your other leg. Follow these steps:
- Keep your spine straight by bending forward and rubbing your chest. If it isn’t painful, bend a little more. If you feel pain, stop.
- For 30 seconds, keep this position and then move on to the next leg.
Standing Piriformis Muscle Stretch
Another standing stretch that can be helpful for sciatica pain is this. If you are able to do it without support, you can either stand up against a wall with your feet approximately 24 inches away from the wall.
- While standing, place your injured leg on the other leg. Keep standing and bend your leg to form the number 4. Keep your hips at a 45-degree angle to the ground.
- Keep your back straight while bending your waist. For 30-60 seconds, stay in this position.
- Repeat the process with both legs.
Long Adductor Muscle Stretch for Groin and Glutes
You will need to sit on the ground with your legs straight ahead.
- Place your hands on the ground in front of your body and tilt your torso towards the floor.
- Keep your elbows flat on the ground and lean forward. For 10-20 seconds, hold the position. If you feel pain, stop.
Scissor Hamstring Stretch
The ischial tuberosity begins at the ischium. It is also one of the parts of the pelvic girdle, along with the pubis and the ilium. Through the sacrotuberous (STL), the hamstring muscles connect to the ischial tuberosity. If they are tightened, sciatica symptoms can be mimicked by hamstring muscles.
By performing this stretch, hamstring muscles can be loosened and sciatic nerve pressure can be relieved. This exercise can be done daily.
- You should position your right foot about 3 feet behind your left foot.
- Push your shoulders back and pull your hips forward. However, your right hip should not be further forward than your left. This can be assessed by a mirror.
- Place your hands on your hips. If you feel the need to balance, you can use a chair.
- Your torso should be slightly higher than your front leg. Keep your back straight and bend your waist slightly. Let your front foot bear most of the weight.
- For 5-10 seconds, keep this position. Then, move on to the next leg. Repeat the stretching for each leg three to five times.
What Should I Do Before Going to My Doctor?
Each person suffering from sciatica pain is unique. Different types of pain, intensity, and causes of sciatic pain may be experienced. Some patients may need to be treated more aggressively. If a six-week-long trial of conservative self-care remedies, such as heat, ice, and stretching, has not resulted in relief, it is time to see a healthcare professional to explore other options.
Although Sciatica does not require immediate medical attention, you should also be keen on preventing back and leg pain. It’s crucial that you maintain proper posture and avoid having a sedentary lifestyle. Having Sciatic nerve pain can significantly decrease your quality of life, but you can take certain steps to lower the pain caused by your compressed nerve.