Much like carpal tunnel syndrome, restless leg syndrome, and migraines, sciatica pain can impact your day-to-day routines. According to Harvard Health, as many as 40% of people will suffer from it during their lifetimes. Whether you suffer from it periodically or persistently, there are at-home remedies to consider, many of them natural.
Learn more about effective treatments for sciatica pain, so you’re ready when and if this insidious condition strikes.
The Sensitive Sciatic Nerve
To better understand the sciatic nerve, picture a tree’s roots branching out into several concentrated directions. Nerves of the lower back coalesce through the lower legs and the buttocks and thus react to intense pressure. When pinched, the nerves produce various reactions, ranging from weakness and tingling to intense pain through the backs of the legs.
Risk Factors for Sciatica
Start by taking a look at your activities and your health. The first step is to understand your risks. Sciatica may occur when bending or moving a certain way or flare up as you recover from an injury. Pain typically resides along one leg or in a specific part of the leg or buttocks.
Common causes for sciatica include strained muscles, epidural fibrosis (scar tissue along the nerves), and lumbar fractures. Pregnancy may bring on sciatica because of the additional pressure. Other risk factors include:
• Professions that involve heavy manual labor
• Extended sitting (sedentary jobs or lack of exercise)
• Herniated disks
In extreme cases of sciatica, epidural tumors, degenerative diseases, and traumatic injuries may lead to lumbar spinal stenosis or cauda equina syndrome.
Top Effective Treatments for Sciatica Pain
Treatment methods for sciatica pain may vary, and you should always seek professional diagnosis and recommendations beforehand. Depending upon the severity and frequency of your sciatica, remedies may include:
• OTC aspirin or acetaminophen: Sometimes over-the-counter medications do the trick. Steroid injections, pain medication, anti-inflammatories, or muscle relaxers may be prescribed if condition worsens.
• Heat and cold packs: Apply cold or heat pack to where the pain is most intense. Alternate with periods of non-application (10-15 minutes pack on skin, 10-15 minutes pack off of skin). You may prefer one type of application, but alternating hot and cold sometimes has a better effect. Remember, whichever you choose, always place a cloth between your skin and the pack, to prevent ice or heat burns.
• Frequent breaks from standing or sitting: If your sciatica flares up because of prolonged non-movement, set timers for a break. Stand, take a brief walk, even go up or down some steps, to unwind inert muscles. Bed rest may be ordered if the sciatica severely impacts mobility.
• Topical therapy: Look for lotions or creams that contain capsaicin.
• Ergonomic furniture: Lumbar pillows, sit-to-stand desks, adjustable-height desks or treadmill desks promote healthy posture and may even improve circulation in your hands and feet.
• Yoga: Warrior, downward dog, child’s pose, or pigeon, and seated and spinal twist poses may be of particular benefit.
• Increased physical activity: Hamstring and spinal stretches, low-impact aerobics, exercise balls, and strengthening exercises can help in multiple ways.
• Acupuncture: Needles stimulate blood flow and endorphins (naturally occurring pain-relieving chemicals in the body). This holistic method can be prescribed as stand-alone or in conjunction with other therapies.
• Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy: These treatments, done by osteopathic physicians, help align the spine to reduce pressure on nerves. Chiropractors also use manipulation as part of their therapy regimen for sciatica.
• Trigger-point therapy: Identifying the “trigger points,” where the sciatica originates can release those knotted nerves. Seek a massage therapist experienced with treating sciatica, or try it yourself. If self-practicing, items such as foam swim noodles and tennis balls make good massage tools.
• Surgery: If the above-mentioned methods do not work, or the sciatica has also caused incontinence or become unbearable. Laminectomy removes bone overgrowths (aka “bone spurs”) that have compressed the spine. Discectomy removes the part of a disk that is inflaming the spinal cord because it’s become ruptured or herniated.
• Inflamments: Diamond Nutritionals’ Inflamments Formula can be used to treat sciatica, as well as other conditions caused by inflammation like IBS, fibromyalgia, and musculoskeletal inflammation. Its blend of turmeric, skull cap root, and other natural ingredients inhibits compounds implicated in pain and inflammation.
It’s always best to start with the options that best fit your lifestyle and carry the least risk of side effects. Know too that some effective treatments for sciatica pain you choose for one occurrence may not work each time. However, relief is possible, and you will find it!