Sciatic pain commonly refers sharp pain down the leg and sometimes into your foot. It can be extremely painful and debilitating and can commonly feel that pain and discomfort is getting out of control. Unfortunately there is no easy cure for sciatica however, chiropractic care can make a big difference to your symptoms.
What is Sciatic ?
Sciatica is not a diagnosis it’s a name of a long nerve that comes out of your lower spinal column through your buttocks down the back of your legs and ends at your big toe.
Here are 12 top tips for managing sciatic pain
1) Avoid prolonged sitting
Your disc bulges most when you are in a forward bending position or when sitting. So sitting at your desk for prolonged periods of time can irritate your nerve. We advise taking regular breaks every 20-30 minutes. This breaks should only take you about 10-20 seconds to allow yourself to get up, move your legs and stretch your back and neck. Also, when you are sitting Sit with your buttock and shoulder blades against the backrest, so you are nice and tall and upright. Getting up and moving will help the disc to stay where it belongs and prevent it from slipping.
2) Squat! Don’t Slump.
Don’t bend your spine forward when leaning over to do things. Make sure you bend the knees and hips but not your lower back. This will protect your back from injury. Use this squat to pick things up or do your shoelaces.
3) Ice instead of Heat
When it’s really hurting use ice and NOT heat. Ice will act as an anti-inflammatory and will also slow the conduction of pain signals to the brain and therefore will help numb the pain. Heat will only aggravate the inflammatory process that is happening when the disc is irritating the nerve. Ice with an ice-pack wrapped in a damp tea-towel for 20 minutes at a time, and repeat this every 1-2 hours.
4) Sleep Position
Try to sleep on your back with a pillow under your knees, or on your side with a pillow between your knees. This keeps the lower back nice and neutral and helps the disc to stay where it belongs and reduces the bulge. It also takes the pressure off the sciatic nerve making leg pain less severe.
5) Keep Moving
Moving is better than staying still. Moving will help to clear the inflammatory metabolites that are surrounding the bulging disc. The movement of the lower back and pelvis will gently mobilise the disc, and help it to heal faster.
6) Extend you back
As mentioned above, bending forwards or slouching can aggravate a disc. However extension (leaning backwards) can help. Try Lying on your front resting on your forearms, elbows bent, and slowly extend your arms to arch your lower back (in yoga this is called a Sphynx or Cobra movement).
7) Strengthen the Core for support
Imagine that your disc is surrounded by many muscles, which help support it and hold it in it’s correct place. Now imagine that those muscles are small and weak, meaning there is no support which causes extra pain. Exercises which are challenging the core muscles will help to support the disc and prevent it bulging further.
8) Avoid running and jumping
Running and jumping or any other high impact exercises may aggravate your bulging disc. However, low impact exercise like swimming and pilates can really help it. Swimming is particularly good as you are not weight bearing and exercising against resistance.
9) Lie down and put your feet up
If you can’t do anything as the disc is really debilitating, try lying on the floor with your lower legs up on a chair. This is a relief position and will help you to feel more comfortable as your sciatic nerve is slackened in this position. You can add an ice-pack under your lower back to help it a bit more.
10) Lose weight
The heavier your body is, there is more pressure on the disc, causing it to bulge more. By shedding a few pounds you will decrease the amount of bulging, and therefore reduce the pain. Weight loss is mostly achieved through diet in combination with increasing physical activity.
11) Don’t Panic!
Disc problems are extremely common, and are rarely a permanent fixture. They do take a while to heal, but the pain will get better with time. There will be good days and bad days, but eventually more good than bad. Follow the advice above and the disc will be best positioned to heal as fast as possible.
12) GO AND SEE A PROFESSIONAL!
All of the above advice should be implemented in accordance with the advice of a registered health professional such as a chiropractor. The advice in this blog does not replace that given by a health professional who has taken a thorough case history and performed a full examination of the area.