Sciatica is a term that refers to pain that presents along the route which your sciatic nerve travels through your body. This nerve branches away from your lower lumbar through the hips as well as buttocks then down each of your legs. It is usually the case that sciatica affects only a single side of your body.
Your sciatic nerve is a part of a much larger system which allows your body to communicate with your brain. This is your central nervous system. It is responsible for carrying signals to and from your brain which coordinates the function of your entire body as well as alerting you to damage. When there is damage to bone or tissue in your body a signal is sent to your brain which you may recognize as pain. There are two types of pain, acute and chronic. Acute pain is sudden and subsides after a period of time. Chronic pain is lasting.
Your back plays a major role in both the protection and path of your spinal cord and nerve fibers which once in your lower lumbar branch out to form the nerves that extend into your legs and feet. When something goes wrong at any point in your vertebral column or pelvis it could lead to a pinching or even damage to the nerves in your body. When there is pressure on or damage to your sciatic nerve it can present with symptoms such as:
- Numbness, weakness, or trouble moving your foot, toes, or leg
- Pain that worsens when in a seated position
- Sharp pain which makes it harder to maintain a standing position or walk
- Pain which shoots down your leg and potentially into your foot and sometimes toes
- Consistent pain in just one side of your butt or leg (this rarely presents in both of your legs)
- Pain in your leg that you may describe as tingling, searing, or burning (compared to a dull aching)
You may think that exercising with sciatic pain is counterintuitive, however, it can actually help to relieve it as well as get essential fluids moving. This exchange of fluids can provide your spinal discs with proper fluids and nutrients to maintain their health while preventing unnecessary pressure on your sciatic nerve.
Strengthening your muscles, tendons, and ligaments through physical activity can also serve to provide better support to your back and improve the alignment of your musculoskeletal system. This can help to more quickly relieve your current pain as well as prevent future events.
Implementing a good stretching routine to your daily routine may significantly help to relieve your sciatic pain. Yoga is an effective, safe, and entertaining way for you to stretch and strengthen your body even with sciatica. Movements within yoga can prevent sciatica by targeting the back, relaxing stiffness and tension, as well as strengthening your core.
Going to get a massage could help increase blood flow, relieve tension, and inflammation which may be contributing to your sciatic pain. Additionally, this can be effective in helping you relax and relieve some stress. Massage therapy can also trigger muscle relaxation and the release of endorphins, which may act as a natural pain reliever. Despite all of this, it can feel really good. Do you need a better excuse?
You should try to stay active when dealing with sciatica. Sedentary behaviors might be a major cause of your sciatic pain. When you sit or remain immobile for long periods of time day in and day out your body’s core muscles can decondition, allowing for poor posture. Over time this can even lead to bulging/herniated discs. You may also want to try implementing an orthotic aid such as a supportive brace. This can help provide the appropriate support to your spine, alleviating unnecessary pressure as a result of poor posture.
When you make sure to get some movement in your daily routine it can significantly help with reducing current or future sciatic pain. You could implement regular stretching or walking breaks when you have to sit for long periods, especially for work. Doing something as simple as walking regularly can provide your body with a minimum amount of activity that forces your muscles to work a bit.
You can use a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory such as naproxen or ibuprofen to assist in reducing inflammation. This can be an effective way to help reduce associated pain but is also helpful for reducing pressure which may be causing the flare-up of your sciatica.
Ice and heat packs may help relieve some or all of the pain associated with acute sciatic pain, especially in the early stage. Try to apply ice or heat for approximately twenty minutes at a time. When using ice or heat you should repeat every couple of hours and may find it beneficial to alternate the two. Make sure when applying ice that you have a barrier between the ice and your skin to avoid ice burn.