If you are tracking along with us on this journey of everything Sciatica, your patience and dedication is about to be rewarded. In Part 1 of our Sciatica Pain Relief series, we discussed what Sciatic Nerve pain is and the associated anatomy (always my favorite part). In Part 2 we went a little deeper with the 5 most common causes of Sciatica and touch on a few of the red flags we want to rule out as soon as possible. Having made it through those two very information-heavy articles, it is time to look at what YOU can do to improve your situation as well as some of the most common everyday actions that may be the primary cause for your Low Back and Sciatic Nerve pain.
EVERYDAY ACTIONS CONTRIBUTING TO SCIATICA PAIN
To some, sitting may seem like a crazy thing to make sciatica worse. However, for those who experience this daily, it is a very real thing. To put this simply, sitting compresses the muscles of the posterior hip, possibly putting pressure on the sciatic nerve. Also, the position of sitting puts tension on the entire posterior chain (back, hip, glutes, hamstrings) potentially irritating the sciatic nerve at the spine, hip, or back of the thigh. Many people with sciatica report finding relief by standing and walking around.
Traveling is similar to sitting in that you take the nature of sitting and compressing the sciatic nerve, and add in the cramped, tight situation of traveling on a plane or car. In addition to this, a hotel bed, or worse, your second cousins blow up mattress in their spare bedroom is not making the situation any better.
Many patients will relate that exercises such as squatting, deadlifting, and rowing can cause their sciatic nerve pain to worsen. The end range of these exercises, tension on the sciatic nerve, and the repetitive nature of exercise all create the perfect storm to irritate a long-standing sciatic nerve issue.
HOME CARE OPTIONS FOR SCIATICA PAIN RELIEF
While many sciatica cases require some formal care, all can benefit from frequent attention through home and office-based stretches and exercises. Below are some of our favorite ‘moves’ to help relieve sciatica pain. The truth here is that sciatica relief and recovery takes time, effort, and focus. Do a stretch one or two times is not enough. You may need to perform one of these every hour. You may have to modify your workspace. Guidance here is one aspect of care in our office but the responsibility to complete these is on the patient. Simply put, the more you focus on care outside of our office, the faster your issue typically resolves.
*NOTE: If any of these stretches increase your symptoms, stop and seek professional care. These exercises are not intended to diagnose any condition. Understanding of these exercises and the prescription of these should be performed by a trained provider.
RISKS & CONSIDERATION WHEN DEALING WITH SCIATICA
We discussed these in Part 2 of our Sciatica discussion. They are worth reviewing, and if you are experiencing any abnormal or rapid increase in symptoms, professional care and imaging are most likely needed.
Something as simple as a hamstring stretch can light up your sciatica like Christmas. As we work through rehabilitative exercises and stretches, gradual progression is a must. Just like any other injury that involves peripheral nerves, more stretching is not always better. Stretching into the pain, or the discomfort zone, when dealing with a nerve issue will likely exacerbate the condition. Start with the above demonstrated exercises, and take it easy!
OCCUPATIONAL & LIFESTYLE MODIFICATION:
Imagine your workspace. Without going through an extensive ergonomics evaluation, what can you change to help your sciatica? Are you able to stand up and work? Do you have a water cooler to frequent? Can you set an alarm on your phone to remind you to stand up and stretch every hour? It is this type of lifestyle modification that is the long game portion of real sciatica relief.
Dr. Reheisse is a Board Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician practicing in Cottonwood Heights Utah. Revive Sport & Spine provides evidence-supported chiropractic care and conservative sports injury management.