The sciatic nerve is the widest and longest nerve in the body. It is formed by a group of nerves at the lower back, then runs from the back towards the leg through the buttock. There are two sciatic nerves, one for each lower limb. Whenever this huge nerve becomes irritated, it can cause symptoms like numbness, pain, weakness, and a tingling sensation. Sciatica is the name given to any pain related to the sciatic nerve. Most people can relate to feeling this pain after sitting very long on a toilet seat.
There are some conditions that can lead to sciatica, such as:
- A slipped disk
- Piriformis syndrome
- Spinal stenosis
- Lumbar spondylosis
- A back injury
Sciatica typically gets better on its own within 4-6 weeks but this can depend on its cause. If you have been experiencing sciatica, here are some tips to help you beat it.
Avoid prolonged sitting
Sitting for extended periods puts some pressure on the back and can aggravate back problems. Nowadays, with the advent of technology, many people spend very long hours sitting in front of a computer. This isn’t very healthy. One way to avoid this is by ensuring you take frequent breaks to stand up and walk around.
Many people aren’t aware that there’s a proper way to carry things. Instead of bending over to lift an object, you should:
- Flex your hip and knees
- Keep your back straight
- Space out your feet
- Lift by gradually extending your knees and hips while keeping your back straight
If you already have sciatica and need to travel, you can choose to ask someone to help you carry your bags or get yourself a rolling bag. This way, you can easily move around without much damage to your back.
Get a proper diagnosis
Sciatica is not a condition, it is a symptom. This is why you must try to identify the exact cause of your pain. To achieve this, make an appointment with your doctor. During this visit, explain how you feel completely. You’ll be examined with some focus on your back, after this, you might be asked to do some tests like an X-Ray or MRI. This should paint a better picture of your back to your doctor.
Once a diagnosis is made, you can know what you’re really dealing with. You might be referred to an orthopedic surgeon or a physiotherapist for treatment.
Don’t skip clinic appointments
Even if you have been prescribed medications in the clinic, you should always ask for a follow-up appointment until you are sure you’re completely pain-free. If you skip appointments, your symptoms may just return because the underlying cause has not been fully treated.
Do the right stretches..
There are some back exercises and stretches that can help to.decrease back muscle tightness and improve your symptoms. You should always discuss with your doctor and physiotherapist before. starting any particular stretch to be sure it doesn’t worsen the condition of your back.
Improve your overall fitness
When you’re generally fit, you can lower your symptoms or prevent sciatica from recurring. You can enroll at a local gym, do some cardio and back workouts. Alternatively, you can get some home exercise equipment that provides support for your back like a recumbent exercise bike.
Use Ice and Heat Packs
Whenever there’s acute pain in the body, one sure strategy that works is to put some ice on it. Ice helps to reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain. You can make some ice at home, place it in a container, then wrap it with a towel and apply it to the painful areas.
Placing heat packs improves blood flow and can help lower pain. Many of these packs can be gotten at your local pharmacy store or online.
Stop Smoking (If you do)
Apart from the myriad of problems associated with smoking, it can also cause sciatica and worsen disc degeneration. So, if you smoke, you should consider stopping to improve the pain. Also, if you don’t, try not to start because it affects people negatively.
This brings us to the end of this post. You can try these strategies to get some improvement in your symptoms. The most important thing is to be compliant with what your doctor and the physical therapist say.
BY Dr Charles-Davies, www.25doctors.com
This article was submitted by Pat France, MSRN Member