The feeling can be unbearable.
It’s a searing, burning pain that starts in your low-back, then shoots down the back of the leg.
Forget playing golf or exercising with your friends. It takes all you have just to get in and out of bed. Your social life gets put on hold. Work is torture. And sleep has been non-existent since this all began.
For someone in this condition, all they care about is:
Sciatica Pain Relief
And we’ll get there.
Let’s get some understanding for what sciatica actually is.
What is sciatica?
The sciatic nerve comes out at the base of the spine and runs down the leg. It’s the largest nerve in the body and is created from 5-separate nerve roots.
As it descends, it splits into smaller nerves. This oftentimes makes it difficult to determine where the sciatic nerve is being pinched.
Contrary to popular belief, sciatica is not a diagnosis. It’s just a set of symptoms.
Typically, sciatica is felt in the lower-back and radiates down through the hip, buttock and leg. Only affecting one side of the body at a time.
Sciatica affects around 40% of the population¹. With the most common group being people ages 30-50. However, it can occur in younger and older populations. Pregnant women are especially prone to this problem due to the developing uterus that applies pressure to the sciatic nerve.
Sciatica typically doesn’t happen in the blink of an eye. Usually, it takes months and years to develop. Until finally, one straw breaks the camel’s back (no pun intended).
Eventually, when it occurs there is difficulty sitting, standing up, twisting, lying down, sneezing, and coughing.
If there are more severe symptoms that are experienced, seek immediate medical attention.
When sciatica is a medical emergency:
-Feeling of weakness or numbness that gets worse
-Symptoms in both legs
-Bowel or bladder incontinence (Inability to control the bowel or bladder), and/or increasing weakness or numbness in the legs.
What are the causes of sciatica?
Sciatica can be due to a number of different factors.
The most common cause of sciatica is impingement, or irritation to the nerve root. This is typically due to a herniated disc. But the following may also be contributing to the problem:
- spinal stenosis
- piriformis syndrome.
What’s the deeper problem?
Is that really all?
If so, what causes one spine to have spinal stenosis, and another to not? How about a disc herniation, or piriformis syndrome?
All of these health problems, are what we consider “collateral damage”.
There problems, absolutely.
They’re not the foundational issue, or the core problem.
For example, spinal stenosis is a possible reason for sciatica. But spinal stenosis(narrowing of spaces in the spine where nerves typically run) isn’t the real problem.
In many cases, the answer is abnormal stress loads (think bad posture, sitting too much, repetitious movements, etc.) that create degeneration/arthritis.
As you can see, it’s not as simple as finding out what is causing the sciatica. It’s also important to understand what led to the reason for the sciatica. The further upstream we look, the more likely we are to find the true underlying factor in the symptoms.
Then it’s up to you to take the next steps. If you’d like to find out if you have core problems that may be contributing to some of your health challenges, check out our FREE At-Home Postural Assessment Tool here…
4 exercises for sciatica relief
As you begin to understand more about what might have triggered your pain and discomfort, it’s important to be able to get some relief.
Here’s our 4 favorite exercises for you to perform to get you some sciatica pain relief:
In this video, we show how to stretch all parts of the piriformis.
It’s important to start with each knee close to 90 degrees. Place one hand outside of the knee in front, and place your other hand on your calf/ankle. Then lean forward towards the knee. Once you’ve spent 10-20 seconds in this position, bend forward towards the middle of your leg. Finally, bend forward towards your foot.
Once you’ve completed each step, progress to reaching forward with the hand that was previously placed on your calf/ankle. Then repeat the steps by leaning towards your knee, middle of the leg, and foot.
Finally, lift both arms up to shoulder level and out hold them out to the sides. From there bend all three directions. Once complete, stretch the piriformis on the other side.
This exercise is great to get some sciatica pain relief.
While lying face first on the floor or bed, place your elbows under yourself and lift your upper body off the ground. Make sure to keep contact with your hips and the floor or bed. Then progress to your hands. Place your hands under your body and push your spine off the ground. Repeat this 10-20 times.
This exercise is known as “flossing the sciatic nerve”.
While seated, begin with the painful leg slightly pulled behind you. Tuck your toes toward the ceiling. Also, tuck your chin to your chest. From this position, lift your leg up in front of you while also bending your head back towards the ceiling. Repeat 10-20 times. Go slow.
This exercise helps break down tight fascia around the muscle that may be contributing to sciatica.
Get a hard ball, preferably a lacrosse ball or baseball and sit on it. Place it towards the outside of your rear. Search for tight and tender spots in the muscle. Then roll up and down on these points. You are doing a great job when you notice your sensitivity levels going down.
If you’d like to advance to a greater intensity, simply cross the involved leg over the other (figure 4 style) and continue rolling. Don’t forget to repeat on the other side. This could take anywhere from 1-5 minutes on each side.
Each one of these exercises are important for reducing pain and irritation around the sciatic nerve. It’s important to understand the limitations of these exercises. While they can bring some much needed relief.
They are hardly a correction or fix for the sciatica. Instead, I encourage you to use these exercises as buffers to allow you to feel better until you correct the underlying reason for your pain.
So, what avenue should you proceed down if you want to correct the underlying problem?
What are the healing options for sciatica pain relief?
Medicine – Most treatment options include some combination of NSAIDs, Pain Killers, Muscle Relaxers, Injections, etc. My stance is that drugs are sometimes necessary, but it’s important to understand the outcome they provide. Their purpose is temporary relief. The sciatica may go away for the time being. But the reason for the pain is still there. The medications won’t fix that. And until the problem is corrected, the likelihood for another episode is high.
In extreme cases surgery may be recommended.
Physical Therapy – Will focus on weak muscles and damaged tissue that may be contributing to the pain. Some sort strengthening is necessary in many situations involving pain, if the goal is long-term relief.
Neuro-Structural Chiropractic – Most people are familiar with Traditional Chiropractic. This approach is focused on short-term pain relief. It doesn’t last terribly long, but has been shown to be effective.
As a Neuro-Structural Chiropractor, my focus is on core problems in the spine and nervous system. These core problems may contribute to sciatica, but may also be contributing to other health issues that you have no idea about. We also understand and take into account the other elements in the health equation:
- proper movement
- quality sleep
- healthy mindset
- good nutrition
Each one of these factors must be addressed in order to achieve full correction. Otherwise, the best case scenario is just a short-term fix.
By performing the exercises demonstrated above, and reducing the common causes of sciatica, pain relief should occur.
Furthermore, it’s important to understand that sciatica symptoms are signals that more troubling issues are happening under the surface.
Because if you want to prevent more significant problems from occurring down the road, or from having a relapse of sciatica pain in the future, correcting the core problems in your body is recommended.
- Davis D, Vasudevan A. Sciatica. [Updated 2019 Feb 28]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507908/.