How to Ease Sciatica Pain
What is Sciatica?
In this blog I’m going to explain what Sciatica is and tips on how to ease Sciatica Pain.
Our sciatic nerve runs from our spinal cord, through our hips and bottom, and branches down each leg.
Its our bodies longest nerve and controls our ability to use our legs. If this nerve is irritated, we experience sciatica symptoms.
Sciatica pain can be quite mild like a dull ache to severe pain. It often develops as a result of wear and tear on the lower spine.
Symptoms can include numbness, tingling, burning feeling and muscle weakness. This can travel down the back of your thigh. In extreme conditions continue into your calf and foot. It typically only effects one side of the body.
In extreme cases it can also cause incontinence, which is a symptom of Cauda Equina Syndrome. This requires immediate emergency attention.
There are many factors that can leave you susceptible to sciatica. It mainly effects people who live a sedentary lifestyle.
However, athletes can also be prone to experiencing sciatica from overtraining and not stretching enough.
Age can also play a big part as we may experience degeneration of the spine. Causing issues such as prolapse discs, spinal stenosis, bone spurs and joint dysfunction in the pelvis and hips
There’s also a condition called Piriformis Syndrome. This is where your Piriformis contracts and tightens involuntarily. This worsens when you sit for long periods.
My Experience of Sciatica Pain
My own experience of Sciatica was caused by numerous reasons. The first was overtraining. I used to be a cardio junkie! Loved running, taught numerous high impact fitness classes a week. Also attended other classes and did a couple of hours a week of marital arts too.
All this was great for my fitness levels, but I didn’t spend enough time on stretching. I didn’t do specific core training exercises such as Pilates. I never went for a massage or any type of treatment that would help my tight, overworked muscles either.
Over time my body decided enough was enough. After returning from a run, I bent down to take my trainers off and suffered a prolapse disc!
From this injury I developed Sciatica to the point where I was rushed to hospital with suspected Cauda Equina Syndrome (luckily it wasn’t). I spent numerous amounts of hours seeing my physio where I found that I was also experiencing Piriformis Syndrome and Dormant Glutes
Through my own journey I learnt so much. I knew I had degeneration of my spine (which is all part of the aging process). I started to listen to my body more and worked more on increasing my core strength and flexibility.
That is the good news!
Sciatica can often be relieved through numerous methods. By practicing exercises to improve your core strength and stretches to increase flexibility. The use of heat and cold treatments to reduce inflammations. Also possibl using painkillers to reduce inflammation and treatments such as physiotherapy and massage.
Working to improve your back and core strength and mobility, while increasing flexibility throughout your hips and lower body will significantly reduce your chances of experiencing lower back pain and other symptoms of sciatica. They can aid your recovery from Sciatica too.
Now, let’s go into a bit more detail about how you can ease sciatic symptoms and also reduce your chances of experiencing lower back pain and Sciatica.
How to Ease Sciatica Pain
Improve Your Core Strength
Poor posture, tight and weak muscles can increase your risk for lower back pain and Sciatica.
Gentle strengthening exercises such as Pilates will increase your core strength, stabilise your spine and other joints. Overall it will also improve your posture which will result in less pain and discomfort.
It will also reduce the chances of back pain and sciatica occurring in the future.
Increase Your Flexibility
Introduce gentle stretching into your daily routine especially stretches for your hamstrings, glutes and hips.
Tight hamstrings, glutes and hips can have a negative effect on your posture. They can also increase the stress on your lower back which may contribute to you experiencing Sciatica.
Most types of Sciatica benefit massively through a good stretching routine.
Pilates classes are a great way to learn some effective stretches whilst also increasing your core strength. Both which are needed to ease lower back and Sciatica symptoms or reduce your risk of experiencing these conditions.
Use Hot and Cold Compresses
When the pain is intense apply a cold compress.
Improve and Vary Your Posture
Try not to stay in the same position for too long especially when sitting. This will reduce the pressure on your spine and stop your pain and discomfort from increasing. Try and aim to vary your posture every 20 minutes.
Also aim to sit and stand with correct posture. You could check out the video’s below, to learn how to sit and stand with the correct posture.
Self Massage Techniques
Using a spiky ball, tennis ball or a foam roller can help ease tension and tightness in areas like your glutes and hamstrings which may reduce pain and discomfort especially if suffering with Piriformis syndrome.
Ideally, you should use enough pressure for the massage to be slightly uncomfortable but not painful. Increase or decrease the pressure to suit.
Try not to apply too much pressure as you risk irritating the muscle and worsening your symptoms.
Hope you’ve found the tips on how to improve your Sciatica pain useful.
With a good regular routine of stretching, core exercises, self massage techniques and heat and cold compresses, your Sciatica pain should start to improve in a few weeks.
If symptoms don’t seem to be improving or are getting worse then seeing your GP or Physiotherapist would be the next stage to rule out other potential causes or conditions.
If you’d like to know more info about how we can help you further through Pilates, then check out our 21 day Pilates programme