To summarize our last blog, Sciatica is a condition marked by persistent pain felt down the back of one’s leg. The pain may originate in the buttock and extend all the way down to the toes. Sciatica has a variety of causes, including arthritis, disc injuries, and spinal subluxation (one or more vertebra out of place, causing irritation to the sciatic nerve).
Receiving a chiropractic evaluation is critical because it will reveal the true source of your pain. Chiropractors can recommend the best course of action to achieve long-term relief and correction of the issue. While awaiting your evaluation, there are several things you can do now to relieve that pesky pain.
Pain Relief Options
When the piriformis or hip extensor muscles (muscles found in the buttock and hip region) are tight or inflamed, this can irritate the nearby sciatic nerve and cause pain down the back of the leg. The following stretches are designed to calm these muscles, restore range of motion, and relieve pain associated with Sciatica. When performing these stretches, make sure you don’t overdo it! You shouldn’t feel pain while stretching, but the stretch should be felt deeply.
**Important: If your pain is extreme, your Sciatica may be caused by a disc injury. In this case, performing some of these stretches may be dangerous. Consult a chiropractor as soon as possible to determine the cause of your pain, exercise caution, and use your best judgment when performing stretches.
Single Knee to Chest
On the floor, lie flat on your back and place both of your hands below one of your knees or behind your thigh. Gently and slowly pull your knee to your chest while your leg is bent. Your other leg should be bent and your foot placed on the floor. Hold for at least 30 seconds and repeat on the other leg. Repeat on both legs 2 – 3 times.
Single Knee to Opposite Shoulder
This stretch is very similar to the previous. Start in the same position. The leg opposite to the one you are stretching should lay flat on the floor. Gently and slowly pull your bent knee towards the opposite shoulder and hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds. Repeat 2 – 3 times on both legs.
Seated Hands to Floor
Sit near the edge of a chair with your legs spread apart and your feet firmly on the floor. Bend forward at the waist so that your upper body falls in-between your legs. Extend your arms and legs to the floor. Hold the stretch for at lest 30 seconds and repeat 2 – 3 times.
Nutrition is essential for overall health, but a nutritious diet is also important for maintaining spinal health. Certain vitamins and nutrients nourish your bones, muscles, and joints for a healthier spine. Some nutrition tips that can support your recovery from Sciatica and prevent back and joint pain are as follows:
Adopt an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Inflammation of the sciatic nerve or nearby muscles occurs when the area becomes swollen due to injury or nerve compression. Depending on the cause, an anti-inflammatory diet won’t permanently correct the issue, but it can accelerate the healing process. Dr. Emily Kane, ND, LAc (a naturopathic doctor based in Alaska) suggests avoiding animal products (except fish and eggs) and refined sugar to reduce inflammation. Turmeric and St. John’s wort are nutritional supplements that may also reduce inflammation and support the healing of nerves. Also, be sure to eat plenty of leafy greens, as they have been found to contain concentration of vitamins that can reduce inflammation. Staying hydrated is also important. You should be drinking at least 64oz of water per day (coffee and soft drinks don’t count!)
3. Posture – Practice Proper Sleep Posture
Bad sleeping posture can worsen back pain and Sciatica. Reducing compression of the lower back during rest can prevent your pain from worsening and help prevent regression during chiropractic treatment. We recommend sleeping on your back as often as you can and placing a pillow under your knees. If you are a side-sleeper, keep your knees slightly bent and place a pillow between them to keep the hips aligned. Avoid sleeping on your stomach, as this forces you to rotate your neck to one side, causing tightness. You should also sleep with only one pillow under your head so that your neck is aligned with the rest of your spine.
Sciatica can be debilitating, but putting all of these recommendations into place on a daily basis may provide relieve. Again, the only way to achieve long-term correction of the issue is to have a professional treat the underlying causes. Visit a chiropractic office as soon as possible to receive an evaluation so you can get on the road to recovery! You can request an appointment with ProHealth Chiropractic Wellness Center here.
Stay tuned for our next blog describing the chiropractic process for treating Sciatica and other kinds of back pain.