If you’ve ever suffered from sciatica in the past, right off the mark you’ll know how awful the condition can be, and just how debilitating it can be. If you’ve never experienced sciatic nerve pain, first off you should consider yourself very lucky indeed, as it is a truly awful condition, and the best way to describe it would probably be an agonizing pain which runs from your lower back, down to the very soles of your feet.
There are many exercises for sciatica and lower back pain, some of which have proved extremely effective, yet in order to treat something, we must first understand it. Now, before we put you on edge and have you terrified of ever suffering from sciatica, the thing to remember is that the pain is not constant and it isn’t always as intense as other times. The pain can come and go, and sometimes it may only make its presence felt in the form of a dull and slight throbbing. The good news as mentioned is that as sciatica is very common, there are a number treatments designed to provide pain relief from sciatica, many of which we’ll be taking a look at shortly. Before that, however, here’s a more detailed look at what sciatica is and what causes this debilitating condition.
What is sciatica?
Sciatica, or sciatic nerve pain, occurs when the sciatic nerve becomes trapped or pinched within a person’s lower spine. Sometimes it isn’t the nerve itself, but rather, pinched or trapped nerves that run along the sciatic nerve itself, that can cause major problems. The sciatic nerve runs down a person’s left-hand side, so it is the left leg that bears the brunt of the pain. As mentioned, sometimes the pain can be characterized as nothing more than a dull throbbing, yet there are other times where the pain can be excruciating. Sciatica can leave people bedridden for days at a time and make it virtually impossible for them to drive, walk, or to even sit upright in some cases. The sciatic nerve can often become trapped or pinched via lower back problems, such as a slightly protruding or herniated disc, although there are some instances where there are no apparent causes for the condition. When suffering from sciatic nerve pain, people often try to simply mask the pain by opting for pain relief drugs, which, although good at dulling the pain, do not actually address the problem directly. In reality, there are a number of effective ways to relieve sciatica, and contrary to popular belief, many of them are non-invasive as well. Rather than masking the pain with drugs, which then cause a number of other harmful side effects in the process, here’s a look at a few effective and natural ways of treating and preventing sciatica.
Treatments and remedies for sciatica
Now that we’ve looked at sciatica and what can potentially cause this condition, here’s a look at a few treatments and remedies for sciatica:
Massage therapy – Contrary to popular belief, massages are not simply used primarily for people looking to relax and unwind whilst at a spa, as there are various forms of massage therapy out there that have proved to be extremely beneficial when it comes to treating sciatica. If you are suffering from muscle spasms as a result of the condition, as well as numbness in the legs, for example, a deep tissue massage, or perhaps a trigger point massage, would prove especially beneficial. Massage therapy is especially beneficial because not only can it help to reduce inflammation and swelling in and around the sciatic nerve, it can also help to boost circulation and increase the production of endorphins, which are known as happy chemicals because they literally make you feel much happier than usual.
Acupuncture – Acupuncture is another holistic treatment that has proven incredibly beneficial for treating and preventing sciatica in a wide variety of different individuals. Acupuncture sciatica treatments require an individual to have super-fine needles stuck into their body at specific points in order to help achieve and enhance energy flows and enhanced nerve production and function. It may take several sessions for a person to feel relief via acupuncture, though the general consensus is that acupuncture is one of the most effective natural treatments for sciatic nerve pain currently available. Acupuncture is a staple part of traditional Chinese medicine, and it has been practiced for centuries upon centuries, with huge success rates in the process. Whilst the thought of having many needles stuck into your body may sound barbaric, the needles are not much thicker than a strand of hair, and once inserted into the skin you can bear even feel them at all. They target a number of specific pathways within the body, and not only does acupuncture provide relief from sciatica, it can also provide relief from a number of other back-related issues as well.
Physiotherapy – A lot of people tend to want to spend most of their time in bed when they suffer from sciatica, as it can make walking and moving in general, very unpleasant and painful. However, studies have proven time and time again, that rather than spending the majority of your time resting and sedentary whilst dealing with sciatica, you should instead try to get more active, which is why physiotherapy is so useful. Physiotherapy is a form of treatment in which a physiotherapist will manipulate your body using various stretches and movements, whilst encouraging you to get slightly more active in the process. These movements help to improve blood flow and oxygen transportation around the body, allowing more blood and oxygen to travel to the sciatic nerve and the affected area of the back, and therefore assisting with the healing process. A physiotherapist will not only perform stretches and movements designed to help reduce inflammation in the back, they will also help to perform exercises that will reduce the likelihood of the condition happening again in the near future.
Stretching and yoga – Yoga and stretching have both been found to be extremely beneficial for a person’s general health and well-being, yet when it comes to sciatica, the benefits really do become apparent. You see, movements and exercises that shorten the spine have been found to greatly enhance pain and discomfort in people suffering from sciatica. Excises and movements that lengthen the spine however, have been found to help ease pain and discomfort. Guess what stretching and yoga does for the spine. Yep, that’s right, they lengthen the spine and can therefore help to ease pain and discomfort.
Try tennis ball therapy – Whilst it may sound slightly bizarre, tennis ball therapy is actually one of the most effective forms of physical and massage therapy currently in existence. Basically, tennis ball therapy combines the many elements associated with reflexology, massage therapy, and acupressure, to provide simple and effective relief from sciatica, and other similar conditions. You see, the tennis ball is gently rolled on by a person, where it then massages the piriformis muscle, that happens to be located next to the sciatic nerve. The ball firmly massages the muscle and the surrounding tissues in the area, where it can help to break down swollen and inflamed muscle tissue and scar tissue. With sciatica, often it is the piriformis muscle that causes problems as the muscle can push down on the sciatic nerve, which is located underneath it, which can then result in numbness, tingling, and pain in the leg, hips, and buttocks. By using a tennis ball on trigger points in this muscle, however, the ball presses them, it reduces inflammation and muscle tension, plus it helps to promote flexibility and mobility.
Hot and cold therapy – When you suffer from a muscular-related injury, one of the first things you are advised to do is to apply ice to the injury and leave it for 15 minutes. With sciatica, combining heat therapy with cold therapy however, has been found to be especially beneficial. When we apply back decompression ice packs to injuries, the ice provides pain relief by dramatically reducing inflammation and taking down any painful swelling. Whilst applying an ice pack to the sciatic nerve can be great at reducing swelling and inflammation, as the nerve is located so deep down, the ice can only penetrate so far, before it needs to be replaced. After icing the affected area for 15 minutes, experts recommend switching a cold pack for a hot pack or taking a very warm bath. You see, by alternating temperatures you are able to dramatically reduce inflammation, plus you can boost circulation and can increase oxygen and blood flow, plus lymph flows will also be improved, which again, helps to reduce internal inflammation and speeds up the natural healing processes within the body.
Get light exercise – We’ve already looked at why it’s beneficial for people to get physically active when suffering from sciatica, but in terms of exercise, yoga, stretching, and physiotherapy will only do so much. As mentioned, people dealing with sciatica think that resting up in bed, or horizontally on the couch is the best way to treat the condition, when in reality doing so is doing them more harm than good. Even if the pain is only moderate you should still avoid sitting down for prolonged periods of time, as that is placing more pressure on your lower back. Ideally, you should get some light exercise each day, such as going for a brisk walk. Each day try to take more steps and to walk slightly longer than last time, and although painful at first, you will find that generally the more you walk and the more active you become, the less painful your sciatica will become. The bottom line is that when sciatica is causing you pain, sitting or laying down for a prolonged period of time is only going to make the condition worse, so force yourself to really get active and to get some light exercise each day.
Try Devil’s claw – Although this natural herbal ingredient has a pretty dramatic name, it is actually very beneficial for somebody dealing with sciatic nerve issues. It functions as a highly potent and very powerful natural anti-inflammatory, and is considered by many to be just as powerful, if not more so, in fact, as Ibuprofen. Ideally you should begin with dosages of around 1500mg – 2000mg twice per day, although it should be avoided if you are using blood thinning medications, or if you are suffering with peptic ulcers.
Epsom salts – Epsom salts are renowned for their near miraculous healing properties, and these properties really prove their worth when it comes to sciatica. Epsom salts help to greatly relax the muscles and they naturally draw out harmful toxins from the body. With sciatica, it is the muscle relaxing benefits that prove useful, especially when you take an Epsom salt bath. Ideally you should run the bath as hot as you can tolerate it, you should dissolve 2 large cups of salts in the bath, and before getting in you should apply an ice pack to your lower back, making use of the hot and cold therapy methods we looked at previously. The warmth of the bath, along with the salts, will relax the muscles, will help to reduce inflammation and swelling, and will help you to relax and unwind as well. Sciatica can make it very tough to sleep at night, and as we do much of our healing when we sleep, you will want to take any help that you can get. Your nerves and muscles will really benefit from the salts and from the sleep that they help promote, so make sure you try an Epsom salt bath out as soon as you can, as you will really benefit.