Sciatica is one of the most common back pain complaints in the country. Yet few patients truly understand what sciatica is or what can be done at home to help relieve the persistent, often radiating pain down one or both hips.
What is sciatica?
Sciatica is not itself a diagnosis, but rather a term used to describe a set of symptoms associated with a spinal condition. The largest nerve in the body, the sciatic nerve travels from the lower back through the buttocks and down each leg to communicate messages to the muscles in both legs. Herniated discs in the spine, bone spurs, pinched nerves, or spinal damage can all compress the sciatic nerve, causing pain that often radiates through the buttocks and down one or both legs.
How Can I Relieve Sciatica at Home?
As painful as sciatica can be, the first mistake most people make is deciding to limit their physical activity. While rest is appropriate for particularly painful sciatic nerve pain, the loss of muscle tone that results from a sedentary lifestyle may actually make sciatica worse.
Strong core and back muscles improve posture and increase the body’s ability to hold the spine in its proper place. This, in turn, relieves a lot of sciatic nerve pain. Yoga and Pilates are particularly useful for stretching the muscles in the back and strengthening the core without the jarring motions of running or jumping. Walking and light weight training can also improve sciatic pain without compromising the integrity of the spine.
Lying flat on your back, bring one knee toward the opposite shoulder and hold it there to the count of 30. Be sure to breathe and keep your opposite leg straight. Repeat with the other side. You can also sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you, your back straight. Bring one foot to the outside of the opposite knee. With both hips on the floor, gently turn your body toward your bent knee. Hold for 30 seconds then gently unwind and reposition yourself to repeat the exercise with the other side.
Ice & Heat
For particularly painful days, alternating ice and heat may offer relief. As tempting as it may be to sit with a heat pack for prolonged periods of time, ice is known to reduce inflammation that causes sciatic pain. Alternating between the two will allow the body to receive both the anti-inflammatory properties of cold and the muscle relaxant properties of heat.
Lay Flat on Your Back
As alluring as it may be, resist the temptation to lay on your bed. Instead, opt for laying on the floor with a pillow beneath your knees. While it will not keep your body moving and improve your circulation, resting in such a position may offer temporary relief from a sciatica flare up.
For more information on any of these methods or if you need help on your road to recovery, contact Innovative Physical Therapy Solutions today.