5 Ways to Relieve Sciatica Pain Without Drugs
Sciatica pain can be excruciating. It occurs when the sciatic nerve, which extends from the lower back down each leg, gets pinched or compressed due to bone spurs, spinal stenosis, or a herniated disc. The fiery, tingling pain can be debilitating and can often be accompanied by numbness or muscle weakness in the affected foot or leg, or even, in the most severe cases, loss of bladder or bowel control.
The good news is that most cases of sciatica don’t require surgery. Mild to moderate sciatica pain can be managed with self-care. If these methods don’t work for you, if your sciatica pain lasts for more than a month or if your sciatica symptoms include muscle weakness or incontinence, talk to your doctor.
1) Do Stretching Exercises
Sciatica pain can cause tightness and tension in the muscles of the lower back, hips, hamstrings, thighs and calves. Most people find that stretching these areas eases muscle tension and can relieve much of the pain associated with sciatica. Stretches that externally rotate the hip are best for releasing pressure on the sciatic nerve and bringing relief.
Try some yoga stretches, such as reclining pigeon pose, sitting pigeon pose and forward pigeon pose to open the hips. Reclining and sitting spinal twists can create space between the vertebrae to ease pressure on the sciatic nerve. Hamstring and calf stretches can release tension in the legs. Try YouTubing some stretches or attend a gentle yoga class and ask the instructor to help you modify some of the stretches for sciatica pain. You don’t need to be super flexible and fit to benefit from these exercises; you are allowed to adjust them to account for your own physical limitations.
2) Stay as Active as Possible
When you’re reeling from sciatica pain, it can be hard to find the motivation to get out of bed or off the couch. Of course, if you’re suffering from severe, debilitating pain, resting for a few days might be a good idea. But bed rest for back pain is no longer recommended beyond a minimal amount for acute injuries because staying in bed too long weakens your core muscles and can make back pain worse. Exercising will keep your core muscles strong and your spine limber. Try low-impact exercises like swimming or water aerobics, elliptical training, cycling or yoga.
3) Get Physical Therapy
A physical therapist can help you strengthen the core muscles that support your spine and correct your posture to relieve your symptoms and prevent future injury. Most cases of sciatica are caused by core muscle weakness, poor posture, muscles on one side of your spine being stronger than on the other, or some other muscular problem that you may not even be aware you have. Physical therapy can relieve your sciatica symptoms and keep you from experiencing symptoms in the future.
4) Get a Massage
Getting a massage can relieve muscle tension and ease muscle spasms to relieve sciatica pain. It can also trigger the release of endorphins, which can help you feel better right away. Plus, massage improves circulation, which can promote healing.
5) Use Good Body Mechanics
It can take a long time to heal from sciatica, but while you’re waiting, try to give your spine a break by practicing good body mechanics. If you have to stand for a long period of time, keep a low footstool nearby, so you can elevate your affected foot slightly from time to time. When sitting, place a small pillow behind your lower back for lumbar support.
Try not to do any heavy lifting, and if you must lift anything more than 10 pounds, use good lifting mechanics: squat down and lift with your legs, rather than bending over. Hold heavy items close to your torso, rather than letting them dangle down at the ends of your arms; this encourages your core muscles to engage, protecting your spine. Make crunches and other core exercises a part of your regular workout routine, to prevent future flare-ups.
Sciatica pain can make you want to stay in bed for the rest of your life, but with proper self-care and perhaps the help of a doctor, you can find relief from sciatica pain. Most cases of sciatica pain don’t require drugs — at least, nothing stronger than ibuprofen. With time, your sciatica pain will heal, and you’ll find yourself once again ready to take on the world.