Sciatica is a common problem that occurs in a great number of people at some time in their lives. The sciatic nerve, which is the longest nerve in the body, runs from the lower end of the spine, through the pelvis and down the backs of the legs. As a result, compression of the nerve can lead to discomfort anywhere along the length of the nerve. However, proper care can help to reduce the amount of discomfort and impact on your daily activities. Generally, sciatica resolves after a few weeks, but it can often recur. Without proper treatment, permanent nerve damage may occur. Here are a few treatments that can help to relieve sciatica pain, numbness and tingling.
Common Sciatica Symptoms
Because of the length of the sciatic nerve in the human body, symptoms can be experienced anywhere along the course of the nerve. You may have lower back pain or pain in the hip. You may experience numbness or tingling in the leg on one side of the body. There may be sharp pain when getting up from a sitting position or a feeling like an electric shock. Some may experience a dull, aching pain. The numbness and tingling may travel all the way into the foot.
Hot and Cold Packs
Applying cold packs to the painful area is recommended for the initial stage of the problem. This helps to reduce pain and inflammation in the nerve. Apply a cold compress for 10 to 20 minutes, several times each day. After the first few days, you can then switch to warm compresses such as a hot water bottle or heating pad. Keep on the affected area for 20 minutes several times each day. Remember to protect the skin to prevent burns.
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen or naproxen can help to reduce inflammation of the sciatic nerve. Take only according to package directions.
Certain types of exercises can be helpful in relieving sciatica symptoms. Once the discomfort is under control, try to keep moving, which is the best way to prevent a recurrence of the problem. Prolonged sitting generally causes increasing problems with sciatica. Here are a few of the most commonly recommended exercises to help sciatica:
· Knee-to-Chest Stretch – in this exercise, the individual lies on the floor on a mat. Bend one leg, bringing the knee to the chest. Hold the position, keeping the lower back pressed to the floor. Repeat on the other leg.
· Glute Bridges – lie on the mat with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Press the lower back to the floor, tighten tummy muscles and lift the buttocks off the mat. Hold for several seconds, then release back down to the floor. Do 5 times, building up the number of times gradually.
· Hamstring Stretch – hold onto something for safety while you do this exercise. Stand straight and put one foot on a stair step. Straighten the leg on the stair. Pointing the toes upward, lean forward, allowing a stretch in the back of the leg. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, keeping your back straight. Release, and do the other leg. Repeat the exercise 3 or 4 times.
Chiropractic care can also provide relief from sciatica symptoms. Your chiropractor is experienced in treating all types of dysfunctions of the spine and related nerves. As a result, the chiropractor may use a number of different techniques to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve to eliminate discomfort. Heat and cold may be used to reduce inflammation and soothe the nerve. Your chiropractor may also recommend certain types of exercises to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve. Chiropractic massage can also help to relieve discomfort. Spinal decompression is sometimes utilized to separate vertebrae that may impinge on the sciatic nerve. Other methods may also be employed to reduce discomfort and improve function of the affected leg. In addition, your chiropractor can offer advice on ergonomic changes to prevent recurrence of sciatica problems.
Sciatica can be a troublesome problem, but proper treatment can limit the period of discomfort and allow you to get back to your normal activities. Improving posture, muscle strength and overall flexibility can help to prevent the recurrence of sciatica discomfort. When you’re ready to eliminate your sciatica pain, call Integrative Chiropractic today at 205-637-1363 for an appointment to learn about treatments that can help.