How to Relieve Sciatica Pain
How to relieve sciatica pain with home remedies
What is the best thing for sciatica?
The answer to your question won’t always be a simple one, but if you’ve ended up here you’re probably on the hunt for advice on how to relieve sciatica and, if you’re nodding right now then wonderful, because you’ve come to the right place.
Our Comfort Experts (trained by our consultant Occupational Therapist, Julie Jennings) have kindly compiled the answers to some commonly asked questions about this condition, and offered tips on how to ease sciatica pain in the short-term.
What is sciatica and what causes it to flare up (so often at the most inconvenient times!)? Can exercise, stretching and choosing the right furniture really play a part in treating sciatica?
At HSL, we understand the importance of physical and mental wellness, and our mission is to help you live in comfort; to rest better and move better, so you can spend more time doing what you love.
Life’s too short to be preoccupied with discomfort; find out more about home remedies that can reduce pain and allow you to seize the day!
Sciatica pain is caused by irritation or compression to the sciatica nerve; the longest nerve in the human body that runs from the back of your pelvis, through your buttocks and all the way down both legs, ending at your feet. It is common for those with sciatica to have back pain, but more usually the pain will be located in the buttocks and the legs. It’s a shooting pain that can lead to temporary numbness of the leg, bottom and lower back.
Sciatica is usually caused by a herniated disk. This is where a disc develops a tear or crack and bulges into the spinal canal, causing irritation to the sciatic nerve. For a clear comparison, many compare the pain to the nerve pain that you experience if you have toothache.
Treatment for sciatica is often unneeded as the pain caused by the condition usually reduces or completely disappears within 4 – 6 weeks. However, for those with a more serious case of the condition, there are a variety of treatments available. These include:
What is sciatica pain?
Sciatica pain is caused by irritation or pressure on the sciatica nerve; the longest nerve in the human body that runs from the back of your pelvis, through your buttocks and all the way down both legs, ending at your feet.
It is common for those with sciatica to experience back pain, but more often soreness will be located in the buttocks and the legs. It’s a shooting pain that can lead to temporary numbness in your legs, bottom and lower back.
What causes sciatica?
Sciatica is caused by pressure on the on the sciatic nerve, usually due to a herniated disc. This is where a disc develops a tear or crack and bulges into the spinal canal, causing irritation. For a clear comparison, many liken the sensation to the nerve pain that you experience if you have toothache.
When it comes to flare ups, there are a number of lifestyle factors that can exacerbate or trigger sciatica nerve pain; to name just a few:
It has been reported that up to 60% of those who have tried other unsuccessful therapies and then tried spinal manipulation have had the same degree of pain relief as patients who have had surgery. The respondents in the survey from the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics attended a chiropractor three times a week for four weeks and then continued weekly visits until they started to feel better.
The benefits of visiting a chiropractor is that it has the ability to improve mobility to the injured area by getting a response from the nervous system. It is also thought to reduce inflammation, promoting natural healing mechanisms. The great thing about this type of treatment is that it comes with very little risk and is most likely to help in some way.
How to relieve sciatica pain
When you’re suffering from pain due to sciatica, remember that there are a variety of options to help you overcome it in the short, medium and long term.
It’s important to consult your GP before trying home remedies, and make sure to let them know if your pain is severe or has lasted several weeks; the best pain relief for sciatica might vary from person to person, or you could require medical treatment.
This is often unneeded however, as the pain caused by the condition usually reduces or completely disappears within four-to-six weeks. In the meantime, these remedies can provide some much-needed relief!
Avoid being sedentary for extended periods
If you’ve got sciatica, you’d be forgiven for thinking that rest is best. In fact, the opposite is true and it is important to try and do as much physical activity as you can. This is one of the most natural ways you are able to combat the condition.
Whilst bed rest can offer temporary comfort, in the long term it can worsen the symptoms of sciatica. This is because body parts won’t be regularly used which could lead to a weakening of the muscles.
Regular routine exercises such as walking or gentle aerobics can go a long way in reducing the severity of the symptoms caused by sciatica. Dependent on the exercise you’re doing, it can also strengthen the muscles in your legs, buttocks and back, helping to prevent pain from the condition. The aim is to get moving and back to normal activities as soon as possible.
We know that sitting or standing for too long in a certain position can trigger pain and this can be amplified for those that have sciatica. Movement that tends to make the pain worse is crouching or shortening the spine.
However, lengthening the spine through either yoga, mild stretching or extending the limbs whilst laying down can go a long way to lessening pain. This is because it promotes good posture, whilst reducing inflammation and stiffness. Yoga has the ability to strengthen back muscles and put less pressure on the legs and buttocks.
Why not try this simple at-home technique?
- Lie on your back and bend your knees as close to your chest as possible, then stretch back out again
- Repeat this five times before taking a short break
- Follow the same routine for a further two sets of five
Hot and cold compression packs
Those who are less mobile could consider trying either hot or cold compression packs. Having a heat pad placed on the lower back for just 15 minutes every two-to-three hours can be a really effective way of offsetting the effects of sciatica.
Hot baths can also be a useful method, as the heat generated will loosen tight muscles and improve circulation. Enjoying a 20-minute hot bath directly after being in a cooler environment can open up the body’s pores more quickly and speed up the healing process.
In contrast, ice can also be a handy tool for relieving pain. A homemade ice pack can be created by simply wrapping a towel around a frozen pack of peas. Although ice or heat will do little in the way of combating the inner inflammation, they do offer great temporary pain relief and an effective counter-irritant. If you’re able to do this just as you wake and directly before bed, then it should provide comfort for both day and night.
This kind of treatment has the ability to improve mobility to the injured area by getting a response from the nervous system. It is also thought to reduce inflammation, promoting natural healing mechanisms. The brilliant part is that chiropractic therapy comes with very little risk and is most likely to help in some way.
Working on your posture
Comfort and good posture go hand-in-hand. Though it may be more of a preventative measure than a solution for pain, perfecting posture will ensure your body is in the correct position and avert putting pressure on joints and muscles.
Straighten things out with our comprehensive guide to posture; complete with advice for standing, walking and sleeping!
Choosing the right furniture
To avoid getting sciatica again, and to ensure you don’t exacerbate the symptoms while you have them, enjoying your rest and recuperation time on furniture that’s designed to complement your body’s requirements is essential. Luckily, we’re all set with advice on buying the ideal mattresses, chairs and sofas to support your body’s posture.
For those with a more serious case of the condition, there are a variety of treatments available, which you can find out more about from your GP. Sciatica will rarely warrant the need to go to surgery, but if symptoms are getting progressively worse, your doctor might refer you for any of the following:
- Spinal injections
- This method will distribute strong anti-inflammatory medication to the inflamed area
- This is where a section of the vertebrae, called the lamina, is removed
- Fusion surgery
- Where vertebrae have slipped out of place, a metal cage is secured between the vertebrae, with rods and screws
- This is where the part of the disc pressing on your nerve is removed
A surgeon will talk through the risks and benefits of undertaking surgery. Many people have a positive result from surgery and potential complications are relatively minor.
If you know HSL, you’ll know we strive to help our customers be comfortable, happy and well. As such, our in-store Comfort Specialists have been well-trained by our consultant Occupational Therapist, Julie Jennings, to deliver a 7-Point Seating Assessment™, and ensure you’re sitting in a comfortable, supportive chair, sofa or bed. CleverComfort™ approved.