The sciatic nerve is the widest and longest nerve in the human body; it starts in the lumbar spine and travels down the back of the leg to the foot. When it is irritated, inflamed, or abnormally compressed, it can cause multiple levels of pain that can spread to the lower back, hips, buttocks, and upper thighs. Contributing factors that aggravate the sciatic nerve include weight gain, age-related changes in the spine, low activity, and injury. Thankfully, relief has been found in various ways.
People with sciatica can use a foam roller to help alleviate the pain. Rolling out the sore muscles of the lower back, hip flexors, and glutes can relieve tension, thereby reducing pain. Most sports stores and physiotherapists' offices sell these therapeutic foam rollers for home use. Tutorials and videos are easy to find online.
One would think that performing yoga would be difficult when sciatica pain is active, but individuals who endure this pain should continue moving to keep joints flexible and muscles strong. Yoga practice involves low-intensity stretching and specific exercises to help loosen muscles and soothe the symptoms of sciatica. Some beneficial poses to strengthen and stretch muscles for sciatica relief include the cobra, locust, and reclined pigeon pose. It requires only a yoga mat and a quiet, peaceful room.
Acupuncture is an alternative therapy that may help with sciatica pain. Needles are inserted into the various pressure points of the body to redirect the flow of energy that has been disrupted. Some research suggests that acupuncture may relieve the symptoms of sciatica. In one study, 81.6% of subjects experienced improvements in pain and functionality after acupuncture treatment. A trained acupuncturist should always perform this type of therapy, as it may be dangerous and cause harm if done incorrectly.
People with heavier midsections tend to endure worse pain if they have sciatica. This is because the extra weight in the core area adds more pressure to the spine. If you are overweight or obese, it is important to reduce caloric intake, incorporate more vegetables and lean meats into your diet, and increase exercise to lose the extra weight, which can help decrease sciatica pain.
Chiropractic treatment involves the manipulation of the spine. Chiropractors can address problems in the spinal region by increasing circulation and reducing muscle spasms, cramping, and pain. Many people report feeling better after their first visit. Even if you have not had this therapy before, it may be wise to schedule a visit and discuss your treatment options.
For people whose pain is most intense at night, using a heating pad for pain relief is a good, immediate option that is inexpensive and readily available. A warm bath followed by a heating pad on the site of discomfort may provide some ease as well as promote more restful sleep. Some people see a big difference with the regular use of heat therapy.
Exercising when in pain may not seem like the best idea. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the less active a person is, the stiffer their muscles become. A doctor or physiotherapist can provide an appropriate exercise routine that suits a person's specific needs. Over time, regular exercise can help improve sciatica problems, too.
Physiotherapists often use TENS machines on their sciatica pain patients because it relieves pain using muscle stimulation. TENS machines can be purchased for home use; however, they require precision and care. It is best to consult with a doctor for guidance in purchasing a TENS machine model and how to correctly use it for sciatica pain.
Massage manipulates the muscles to alleviate sciatica pain. It works by increasing blood flow to tight muscles, which takes pressure off the sciatic nerve. There are many different forms of massage therapy, including deep tissue massage that uses slow strokes and intense finger pressure, Swedish massage that promotes relaxation, hot stone massage that relieves muscle tension, and neuromuscular massage that incorporates deep tissue and friction. One style is not inherently more beneficial to sciatica pain than another; choosing one depends more on personal preference.
Medication to relieve sciatica pain depends on how long the individual has endured the pain and its intensity. Over-the-counter medications include aspirin, acetaminophen, or NSAIDs such as ibuprofen. For more severe, chronic pain, a doctor may prescribe stronger medications, including muscle relaxants and opioids, which can be addictive.
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