A Non-Drug Solution for Sciatica Pain
Sciatica is a condition in which the sciatic nerve becomes irritated and causes pain, numbness, or tingling in the lower back, buttocks, and down the back of the leg. It usually affects one side, and the location of the pain can depend on where the sciatic nerve is being irritated. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. The nerve has branches that come out from the spinal cord in the lower back area and travel around and through the hips on their way down the back of the leg, all the way to the foot.
What Causes Sciatica?
A large majority of sciatica cases are caused by a herniated disc in the lower lumbar area of the spine. When the disc bulges from its normal location, it can irritate the sciatic nerve that is in very close proximity. Other conditions that may lead to sciatica include the following:
- Muscle spasms in the lower back or buttocks
- Piriformis syndrome
- A bone spur
- Spinal stenosis
- Pelvic tumors
In addition to pain that radiates in the lower back, buttocks, and back of the leg, a person with sciatica can experience numbness, weakness, or a tingling sensation. Depending on the cause, sciatica can be an ongoing issue that flares up regularly, or it can be something that resolves on its own within a few days or weeks.
- Radiating pain from the lower back, buttocks, and back of the leg
- Discomfort along the sciatic nerve pathway
- Pain may be mild or severe
- Pain may feel like a burning sensation or electric shock
- Coughing or sneezing may make the pain worse
- Symptoms may worsen from long periods of sitting
- Most people experience the symptoms on only one side of their body
- Muscle weakness, tingling, or numbness can be felt too
Risk Factors for Sciatica
- Being overweight: The extra pounds you carry are extra pounds that your spine must support. Having extra weight around the middle can causes spinal changes that may cause sciatica.
- Pregnancy: Changes that happen to a woman’s spine and hips as she carries the weight of the baby and prepares to give birth can irritate the sciatic nerve. Sciatica usually clears up after the baby is born, but there are ways to reduce sciatica during pregnancy.
- Diabetes: Drastic fluctuations in blood sugar levels increase the chance of nerve damage. Diabetics often feel this first in their hands and feet, but other nerves can be affected too.
- Certain jobs: Jobs that involve heavy or repeated lifting are more likely to injure the lower back.
- Your age: Herniated discs and bone spurs are more common as people get older.
- A sedentary lifestyle: Too much sitting is something that increases your risk for sciatica and will make it worse if you already have it.
Still Not Sure If You Have Sciatica?
An at-home test you can do to figure out if you have sciatica is called the straight-leg-raising test. Lie on your back and raise the leg that has been giving you pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness. If you raise your leg and you feel shooting pain below the knee, there’s a good chance you are suffering from sciatica. Visiting a family physician can confirm this. Your physician may check your muscle strength and reflexes and may ask you to perform other simple tests like walking on your heels. Expensive tests using medical imaging machines are not needed unless there are unusual symptoms present in addition to the classic sciatica symptoms.
Ways to Find Relief at Home
Many people have successfully cared for their sciatica at home. Here are a few things you can try to give yourself some relief:
- Stretching: Gentle stretching can help tight muscles release their tension and take pressure off of the sciatic nerve. Stretch gently and hold for at least 30 seconds. The stretch might give you a slight aching or burning feeling, but you should ease up if you feel any sharp pain. Do not bounce while stretching.
- Cold packs: At the onset of pain, a cold pack can help relieve inflammation. Wrap the cold pack or bag of frozen peas in a dish towel to prevent your skin from getting frostbite. Apply the cold pack to the painful area for no more than 20 minutes at a time.
- Hot packs: A heating pad or other therapeutic heat can be helpful for loosening up tension in the area. If you want to do some gentle stretching, do it after applying heat, not after applying cold.
Ways to Prevent Sciatica
Sciatica is not always avoidable, but reducing risk factors and doing the following suggestions can help you steer clear of sciatica in some cases.
- Get regular exercise: Having strong core muscles supports your spine so that your back muscles don’t have to work so hard.
- Have good posture: Stand tall and sit tall. Avoid hunching over. If you have to sit frequently at work, ask for office furniture that is ergonomic and the right size for your body.
- Lift with good technique: You may have heard the expression “Lift with the legs and not with the back.” Remembering this expression when you lift can help prevent a back injury. If you are not aware of various lifting techniques, even for lightweight items, try looking them up online. You can prevent a back injury and save yourself a lot of pain.
A Natural, Non-Drug Solution for Sciatica Pain
Even though the sciatic nerve is located in the lower half of the body, it is possible that the root cause of your sciatica is actually coming from your neck. The upper neck vertebrae can easily misalign. When they are just the slightest bit off kilter, the rest of the spine tries to compensate. The stress that your lower spine is putting on the sciatic nerve could actually be coming from the upper spine. In this case, the best solution is to visit an upper cervical chiropractor.
At Premier Family Wellness and Spinal Care in Farmington, Michigan, we have the specialized training and equipment to assess your spinal condition and see if your upper vertebrae are misaligned. Correcting any misalignment at the top of your spine will enable the rest of your spine to heal from the ways that it was compensating. Many sciatica patients have found relief after receiving our care.
To schedule a consultation with Dr. Perkins call 248-478-6203 or just click the button below
if you are outside of the local area you can find an Upper Cervical Doctor near you at www.uppercervicalawareness.com.