How to Relieve Sciatica Pain

At HSL, we understand the importance of physical and mental wellness. 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.

Are you suffering from sciatica and looking for advice on how to treat sciatica at home? Alongside our consultant Occupational Therapist, Julie Jennings, we’ve compiled clear and simple answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about sciatica. Read on to find out what sciatica is and how to stop and relieve sciatica pain from the comfort of your own home.

What is sciatica?

Sciatica is a condition that causes pain and other unwanted sensations such as tingling and numbness in your lower back, buttocks, legs and feet. It is directly caused by compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. This is a nerve that runs from the base of your spine in your lower back, down through your buttocks and the rear of your leg to your feet. You have two sciatic nerves, one on each side of your body. Sciatica can affect both sciatic nerves at the same time, but usually just affects one.

Sciatica pain can be mild and distracting, but it can be severe and debilitating for some. Many people describe sciatica pain as similar to toothache.

What causes sciatica?

If something presses or rubs against the sciatic nerve, it responds by creating pain signals. If the nerve is squeezed and compressed, it can stop working properly causing pins and needles, numbness and weakness.

 

Sciatica can be caused by:

  • A slipped disc in your back: This is the most common cause. The discs in your back are like soft cushions that sit between the bones of your spine to protect them. A disc in your lower back can slide partially out of place (a slipped disc) and can press on your sciatic nerve.
  • Spondylolisthesis: This is a condition where one of the bones in your spine slips out of position and presses against your sciatic nerve.
  • Spinal stenosis: This is a narrowing of the spaces within your spine that puts pressure on the nerves running through it, like your sciatic nerve.
  • Other kinds of back injury: Any form of back injury that causes muscle damage and inflammation can trigger sciatica.

What are the symptoms of sciatica?

Sciatica usually causes:

  • Pain that can be sharp, shooting or burning
  • Tingling that feels like pins and needles
  • Numbness
  • Weakness in the affected muscles

 

Sciatica usually affects your:

  • Lower back
  • Buttocks
  • Legs, especially the back of the legs
  • Feet and toes

 

“Symptoms may be worse when moving, sneezing or coughing. You may also have back pain, but it’s not usually as bad as the pain in your bottom, leg or foot.” 
– Occupational Therapist, Julie Jennings, Dip COT HCPC

 

Sciatica pain is typically worse in the buttocks, legs and feet than the lower back. If you just have back pain and no symptoms in your buttocks, legs and feet, you most likely don’t have sciatica.

How to relieve sciatic nerve pain?

When it comes to treating sciatica you have plenty of options from medical treatments to home remedies. In fact, many of the most effective sciatica treatments are ones you can do easily at home.

Many sciatica sufferers find combining a selection of treatments offers the best relief. We’ll outline some of the most popular and effective here. It’s important to consult your GP before trying sciatica home remedies though. They can judge if the remedies are right for you and make sure they complement any other treatments you’re receiving.

 

 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. Whilst bed rest can offer temporary relief, in the long term it can worsen the symptoms of sciatica as it can lead to a weakening of the muscles. It’s important to try to stay physically active if you have sciatica.

 

“Don’t sit or lie down for long periods – even if moving hurts, it’s not harmful and can help you get better faster.”
– Occupational Therapist, Julie Jennings, Dip COT HCPC

 

Make sure you exercise regularly

Regular exercise whether walking, swimming, or gentle aerobics, can go a long way to 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.

 

“Regular exercise is essential for sciatica. Start gentle exercise as soon as you can – anything that gets you moving will help.”
– Occupational Therapist, Julie Jennings, Dip COT HCPC

How To Relieve Sciatica (1)

Try stretching and yoga

Stretching your back and legs can provide long-term relief from sciatica pain as it promotes good posture and can reduce inflammation and stiffness. Yoga offers these benefits, plus it can strengthen back muscles, helping to put less pressure on your legs and buttocks.

You can easily find a great selection of free videos online that take you through stretches and yoga positions to provide sciatica relief.

 

Use hot and cold compression packs

Both heat and cold can provide temporary relief from sciatica pain. Placing a heat pad on your lower back for just 15 minutes every two-to-three hours can be a really effective way of easing the symptoms of sciatica. Hot baths can also be beneficial, as warm water will loosen tight muscles and improve circulation.

In contrast, ice can also be a handy tool for relieving pain. You can make a homemade ice pack by simply wrapping a towel around a frozen pack of peas, or you can buy ice packs from pharmacists and online. Although ice won’t combat the inner inflammation, cold can offer temporary pain relief and can be an effective counterirritant.

 

Work 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.

Work on yours with our comprehensive guide to posture; complete with advice for standing, walking and sleeping.

 

 Choose the right furniture

To avoid getting sciatica again, and to ensure you don’t exacerbate the symptoms while you have them, you need to enjoy your rest and recuperation time on furniture that’s designed to complement your body. You can talk to our Comfort Specialists to find out more about how we can help you.

 

Medical treatments for sciatica

For more serious cases of sciatica, a variety of medical treatments are available. You can find out more about these treatments from your GP. They can range from recommending over-the-counter pain killers and anti-inflammatory medications, prescribing pain-relieving medications, referring you for physical therapy, and seeing a surgery specialist.

When to seek medical attention for sciatica?

See your GP if your sciatica is:

  • Getting worse
  • Preventing you from doing normal, daily activities
  • Hasn’t improved after trying home treatments for a few weeks

 

Go to A&E or call 999 if you have:

  • Sciatica on both sides of your body at the same time
  • Numbness or weakness in both legs at the same time, that is severe or getting worse
  • Numbness around or under your genitals and bottom
  • Difficulties going to the toilet

 

All the above are signs that you may have a serious back problem that needs to be treated as urgently as possible.

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 chairsofa or bed that’s CleverComfort™ approved. 

Tested. Trusted. Recommended.

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