Ever wake up with unexplained shooting pains or pins and needles from your posterior down to your feet? Or do you suffer from nagging lower back pain that spreads downward and won’t seem to quit no matter what you do? If so, you could be dealing with sciatic nerve pain, also called sciatica.
What is sciatica?
Sciatica is quite literally a pain in the backside. It’s the name given to any sort of pain caused by irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve, which is the longest nerve in your body. It runs from the back of your pelvis, down your buttocks and both legs, ending at your feet.
Sciatica can be caused by an injury such as a slipped disc or a pinched nerve. It can also be caused by poor posture or by the pressure of pregnancy. Most people find it goes away naturally within a few weeks, but in some cases, it can last for a year or more.
However, there are plenty of remedies that can treat sciatic nerve pain and improve your general spine health. And none of them involve drugs. Let’s have a look at a few:
Hot and cold
The old hot and cold switch works wonders on sciatic nerve pain. Start by applying an ice pack to decrease sciatic nerve inflammation. Then follow with a heating pad to soothe muscle tension and encourage blood flow to the tense muscles and nerves in the area at the back of the legs and buttocks.
With acupuncture, tiny needles are inserted into pressure points on the body to ease pain and inflammation. Acupuncture has been shown to lessen the painful muscles spasms caused by sciatica. This Eastern treatment also encourages blood flow and circulation to the back of the legs, lower back, and buttocks.
Stretching can loosen tight muscles and promote flexibility, which can ease sciatica. More flexibility means less pressure is placed on the backs of the legs where the sciatic nerve resides.
Regardless of the reason for your pain, most types of sciatica will benefit from regular hamstring stretches. The hamstrings are the long muscles that run down the back of the thighs, and overly tight hamstrings increase stress on the lower back and aggravate or cause some of the conditions that result in sciatica.
An effective stretch is the ‘towel hamstring stretch’. Here’s how to do it:
- Lie on your back with one leg flat on the floor and the other raised up. Wrap a towel round the foot, or thigh, of the raised leg.
- Slowly raise your leg up and straighten the knee, trying to get the bottom of the foot to face the ceiling, one leg at a time. You should feel a stretch in the back of the thigh.
- Hold the position for 10 seconds and swap legs. Gradually work up to 20 to 30 seconds.
Back Support Aids
If you sit in an uncomfortable office chair all day, you’re only exacerbating the sciatic nerve and causing greater inflammation and stiffness. It’s worth investing in a desk chair with sturdy support, to promote good posture while reducing pressure on the lower back and buttocks.
Massaging the muscles of the buttocks and backs of the legs can loosen muscle tension and decrease painful nerve inflammation. How? Massage promotes blood circulation which will ease sciatic nerve tenderness and built up tension.
You can minimise your risk of a further episode of sciatica by:
- adopting a better posture
- stretching before and after exercise
- exercising regularly
When it comes to sleep, your mattress should be firm enough to support your body while supporting the weight of your shoulders and buttocks, and keeping your spine straight. If your mattress is too soft, place a firm board under it. Support your head with a pillow, but make sure your neck isn’t forced up at a steep angle.
At Castle Thai Spa, we can help relieve the symptoms of sciatica with a therapeutic massage. Call us on 0131 629 0794 to discuss the best option for you.