Sciatica and lower back pain can be really debilitating and scary when they come on suddenly and we don’t know how to treat them. If you think you might have either one of these, you may have seen a health professional and been given anti-inflammatories or other drugs. There are other solutions, however.
Sciatica: what you need to know
Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve gets irritated or compressed in the lumbar spine area or the buttock.
The sciatic nerve
The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body and runs from the lower back’s third joint space, down through the buttock and the back of the leg. It branches off in each leg and supplies the entire lower limb.
Sciatica can involve a wide range of different symptoms, including tingling, numbness or weakness in one or both legs. Sciatica can come and go; irritate but not incapacitate, or it may cause severe symptoms and remain the same over a long period of time.
The pain may originate in the lower back, travel through the buttock and shoot down the back of the leg. However, there are many symptoms and causes of sciatica, so let’s go through some of them here.
You may have sciatica if you are experiencing:
- Constant pain in one or both sides of the leg/buttock area, sometimes right down to the foot.
- Burning, tingling, prickling, searing, or the feeling that something is touching you when it is not. Some people report feeling like water is running down their leg when it is actually dry.
- Weakness, numbness, “pins and needles”, or trouble moving the affected leg.
- The feeling that the leg might give way underneath you when you are standing or walking.
- Pain that improves when you lie down, but gets worse when you stand or sit.
Though the symptoms can be severe, permanent sciatic nerve damage is very rare, and treatment is often successful with patience and consistency.
Lower back pain: what you need to know
Lower back pain can be caused by a muscle strain, disc problems, damaged nerves, muscle tension or a specific medical condition.
Identifying the symptoms and getting diagnosed by a doctor or physiotherapist is the first step to improving the problem.
If you experience unexplained weight loss, fever and chills, leg weakness, sudden bowel or bladder incontinence or severed and continuous abdominal pain, seek immediate medical attention.
The sorts of symptoms associated with lower back pain include:
- Trouble moving, which may even prevent you from walking or standing up.
- Aching pain, or sharp pain when you move.
- Muscle spasms, soreness when touched,
- Pain that moves around: perhaps down the buttock, to the thigh area, or down towards the groin.
How can I treat sciatica and lower back pain?
Before treating sciatica and lower back pain, it’s very useful to know what the underlying cause is. If you have slipped a disc or have been diagnosed with a condition like degenerative disc disease, you should consult your health professional before starting any natural or other treatment.
If you are pregnant, the change in the centre of gravity within the body, hormonal changes and the weight gain can all affect the sciatic nerve.
Sometime the position of the baby can really affect how comfortable the mother feels, and once the baby is born, all sciatica symptoms disappear.
Massages can be very helpful for both sciatica and lower back pain. If you’re pregnant, make sure your therapist is aware of your situation.
Choose a therapist that has a lot of experience with your specific problem. Massage can work well, and does for most people, but bear in mind that your body may not respond in the same way as others have in the past.
Follow the therapist’s advice. They may recommend making lifestyle changes like modifying the position you work in, drinking more water or using ice or other natural remedies.
Physiotherapy can be useful to strengthen, stretch and condition the tissues in the area you feel pain.
Gentle exercises are recommended for people who aren’t currently experiencing a flare-up. They can really help prevent future episodes when used regularly.
Stretching is key to improving sciatica and lower back problems. The tighter and less flexible you are in the hips and lower back, the more likely you are to suffer.
Yoga, Pilates and Callanetics are all recommended for these types of problems, and they are gentle on the back and other joints. Experiment, and keep with them. Doing one or a mixture of the above three times a week may stop you from having a long-term problem in the area. You’ll also feel great!
Strengthening exercises and low impact aerobic exercises are also recommended for people with back problems, but the key is to stay active. Bed rest was recommended for years, but long-term bed rest won’t help you keep all the necessary structures strong enough to keep back issues at bay.
Heat is soothing and relaxes tight muscles. It also speeds up healing. Apply a hot compress or “wheat” or gel pack to the entire lower back and hip area, and you’ll feel real relief!