Sciatica is pain that occurs along the large sciatic nerve, the body’s largest nerve. It’s located in the lumbar region and runs down the length of each leg. It most commonly affects people who sit for long periods of time or live a sedentary lifestyle. Additional risk factors for sciatica include aging, obesity, diabetes and occupations or hobbies that are hard on the back.
The most common cause of sciatica is from a herniated disk, which occurs when a spinal disk slips out of place and puts pressure on the sciatic nerve. However, nerve inflammation and irritation can cause sciatica. Nerve sensitivity can come from injury, infection, bone overgrowth, tumors, internal bleeding or nearby muscle irritation. It can also occur during pregnancy.
Sciatica usually goes away on its own, with the condition lasting less than a week when remedied with proper self-care.
Sciatica symptoms can be present in the lower back, buttocks, legs or hips. Pain may be present in all of these areas, or just one. Sciatica pain also varies greatly, ranging from mild aches to debilitating jolts. In most cases, only one side of the body is impacted by sciatica.
Common symptoms of sciatica include:
If you experience sciatica along with any of the following side effects, contact your doctor immediately:
Mild sciatica typically resolves on its own. It’s estimated that up to 90% of people with sciatica recover without surgery. Here are some of the best self-care solutions for sciatica:
Cold Therapy: For the first two days of sciatica pain, cold packs may help alleviate some of the symptoms. Apply a cold pack wrapped in a towel directly to the source of pain for up to 20 minutes, several times a day.
Hot Therapy: After a couple days of cold therapy, you can try introducing hot therapy to alleviate sciatica symptoms. Heat pads, hot packs or a heat lamp can be used and may be alternated with cold therapy if desired.
Short-Term Rest:A single day of rest can help relieve sciatica symptoms when they first appear. However, resting for longer than 24 hours can worsen the problem. Use rest as a very temporary self-care measure only.
Yoga & Stretching: Long stretches can help alleviate sciatica pain, by decompressing some of the nerve. Try beginner yoga poses and ease into each stretch gently and hold it for at least 30 seconds. Practice in the mornings when the body is most tight to help prevent pain throughout the day.
Posture & Core Strengthening: Core strengthening is an important preventative and long-term care measure for sciatica, improving muscle strength, posture and flexibility. Once symptoms of sciatica are alleviated, a core strengthening regime can begin.
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Recliners: An excellent recliner will help support the back and can help alleviate sciatica symptoms. Recliners are a better option than regular chairs and can provide comfort and support for sciatica prevention.
Back Supports & Wedges : Wedges and back supports for your car and chairs at home can help position the back properly. With correct low back support, you can alleviate pressure on the sciatic nerve and reduce pain.
Lumbar Support :Sciatica starts in the lumbar region, which is often tight or has weakened due to sedentary lifestyle. Correct your posture and help properly position your back with lumbar support.
Footrests: A good footrest will keep your body positioned well. This can help prevent and alleviate sciatica and other back problems.