Many people are likely to deal with some form of back pain at some point in their lives.
Sciatica, which begins in the lower spine and can extend down the legs and to the feet, occurs when nerves in the lower spine are pinched, causing intense pain that may come and go. Although surgery is often the most effective remedy for sciatica, there are other, less-invasive ways to relieve the pain.
There are numerous spinal problems that can be responsible for sciatic nerve pain. Ruptured or herniated discs are often the culprits, with some types causing more pain than others. In order to determine the best course of treatment, doctors have to know exactly what type of injury they’re dealing with. This requires a physical exam that may involve X-rays or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test. Once the condition has been diagnosed, the chiropractor can then use one of various manipulative techniques to realign the discs, targeting the exact source of the pain.
Just as sciatic pain is aggravated by moving in certain ways, it can also be relieved by movement. For some individuals, pain can be triggered by sitting or standing for extended periods of time, followed by sudden movement. Motions that involve shortening or scrunching the spine are known to cause pain, whereas those that lengthen the spine can improve posture and reduce inflammation, stiffness and pain. Stretching exercises such as yoga are particularly effective at relieving sciatica. Rehabilitation facilities employ similar types of exercise to strengthen the core and extend the spine.
If you suffer from sciatica, one of the worst things you can do is spend too much time sitting. Treatment plans often call for more movement and specific exercises to target areas affected by inflammation. This can seem difficult if you have a desk job. Fortunately, there are exercises you can do from a sitting position that will help relieve sciatic pain, while strengthening the muscles in your core.
It’s also beneficial to walk as much as possible. Try scheduling short walks, and consider investing in a pedometer to help you take more steps each day.
Although 5 to 10 percent of back-pain patients have sciatica, there are risk factors that can increase the odds of developing it. These include stress, advanced age, obesity, excessive sitting, smoking, exposure to vehicular vibration and being tall. These factors all cause inflammation, which increases pain and reduces the body’s ability to heal from injuries. To reduce inflammation, exercise regularly, eat nutrient-dense foods, sleep well and avoid smoking.
Many people with sciatic nerve pain get relief by applying heat to the affected area. The simplest way to find out if this will work for you is to see how your body responds to warm baths. It should loosen your muscles and help increase your circulation. Another option is to purchase some inexpensive heating pads and place them on your lower back for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. You can repeat this every two or three hours each day, as needed.
If this doesn’t work for you, you may find that cold therapy does. Experiment with an ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes and see if that helps. If neither method works, most doctors recommend over-the-counter pain relievers for intense pain.
Keep in mind that some of these treatments may be more effective than others on your specific condition, which often depends on what’s pinching the nerve. An important advantage of these natural treatments is that there’s little risk of side effects. This makes it possible to try different approaches until you discover what works for you.