What is sciatica?
Firstly, sciatica is a condition where the sciatic nerve becomes compressed and irritated. The pain is usually felt in the lower back, deep in the buttocks and then travels down the leg (and in severe cases is felt in the foot and toes). The pain is felt as stabbing, burning, or shooting pain. You may also have other symptoms such as tingling, numbness and weakness in the leg. Sciatic pain is usually worsened by leaning quick movements, coughing, and sneezing.
What causes sciatica?
Sciatica is caused by anything that causes rubbing or compression on the sciatic nerve this can be due to a slipped disc (the inner part of the disc leaks out onto the nerve in between spinal bones). Spinal stenosis is another cause, which is when part of the spine narrows where the nerve exits. Another cause is spondylolisthesis this is where one of the bones in the spine moves out of position.
How long will my sciatica last?
Sciatic pain usually resolves within 4 to 6 weeks. We can lower this time however, if we work on easing the muscles around the area with heat pads. Moving and carrying on with our normal activities to keep blood flow to the area. The pain may persist longer if you sit or lie down for long periods. If you are struggling to move due to pain, you may want to ask your pharmacist about pain killers as movement is the key to recovery.
What can I do to relieve my sciatica?
Sciatica can be relentless but there is a couple of things we can do to provide short term relief. Firstly, traction can help. Traction is where we have gentle pressure in a direction that helps open the joints of the back. This can be done using a high counter or two chairs. If you are an athlete, I would recommend traction after any activities that compress you (for example, hanging on a pull up bar after a set of squats). Here are a couple of pictures to illustrate how you can do this.
The second method is a way of lying down that may take the pressure off and ease pain for you. This can be done with a couple of extra pillows. I hope this can help you get some rest so you can heal. Shown below is a few positions to try, use the one that works best for you and experiment with how many pillows you use.
Nerve flossing is a great way of reducing the sticking points of nerves and speeding up your recovery. This may give you relief or it may just be useful to speed up recovery. The idea is to get tension on the nerve, a lot of tensions may give you pain so start slow and add in each step as it gets easier. Pain is normal in this exercise; I would advise however that you try to keep it at about 3/10 pushing into pain can irritate the nerve and make your pain worse. Follow each step for 10 repetitions and add in the progressions when the tension has decreased. Shown below is the exercise and its progressions.
The last thing to try is an extension technique. This is a way of moving that gets muscles firing without pain desensitising them. It can rework the disc so that it is pressing less on the sciatic nerve. This is not a stretch so do not force any positions. If repetitions are painful start by lying in one position and gradually increasing the extension.
Hope these tips have helped. Please do let me know if you need anything specific writing about. I will be happy to help!