Tricks To Outsmart Sciatic Nerve Pain
Are you suffering from sciatica? Are you worried that pain, numbness and tingling are here to stay? Fortunately, there are things that can be done to ease the agonizing symptoms, and some effective techniques can be easily implemented by yourself. You can be pain free again; there is no need to despair. Sciatica is caused by irritation or injury to the sciatic nerve – the largest nerve in the body that starts from the hip, branches out through the back of the leg and finishes in the foot. In sciatica, the nerve gets pinched, which results in pain, numbness, tingling, cramping, burning, and weakness in the muscles of the involved leg. Sciatica pain and other neurological symptoms are connected with an underlying condition, such as degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis (narrowing of the nerve space) or herniated disc (a slipped or ruptured disc).
Things You Can Do To Outsmart Sciatica
Strengthen your abs, torso and core muscles
Your core encompasses much more than just the abs – it includes everything besides your arms and legs. It is involved in almost every movement of the human body.
A lot of people develop a weak core of the body, brought on by years of inactivity and bad postures. Core strength is very important for the healthy functioning of your back. By strengthening the abdominal muscles and torso, you will simultaneously work on the strength of your back and prevent injuries and malfunctions such as sciatica. When you work on your abdominal muscles, you need to perform the exercises symmetrically. If you strengthen one muscle group, while ignoring the other, your sciatica can actually worsen. You always need to do the same on both sides of the body: if you exercise one arm or leg, do the same set with the opposite arm or leg as well.
Change iffy routines
We all have our little habits and quirks. Maybe you like to read in bed propped up with pillows, wear your favorite pair of shoes that is old and worn out or always carry a backpack over one shoulder. Repetitive movements that make us adopt asymmetrical postures or put more strain on one side of the body, can cause sciatic pain. The key is to become aware of your routines and change them. Change your shoes, put your backpack over both shoulder or stop wearing it for a while, change the way you sit in bed or slouch on a sofa. Work environment adaptations are important as well. For example, if you spend a lot of time in front of a computer, make sure your chair, desk and keyboard fit your height. A specialist in ergonomics can help you assess your work environment to make it more suitable for you. In addition you need to be aware of the fact that sitting for too many hours can also cause back pain and sciatic pain and I’ve already mentioned it my article on how sitting is slowly killing you and what you can do about it.
Commit to correct posture
Many of us are guilty of developing bad posture. However, as long as the posture hasn’t caused structural changes, there is a lot you can do to alter the way you habitually walk, sit and sleep. Good posture means that your head, neck, back, buttock and legs are aligned. Observe yourself. If you slump, correct that. Some yoga postures can be particularly good for re-developing good posture. If one leg is significantly longer/shorter than the other, this can affect the way you hold yourself and walk. Get an in-shoe lift (quarter inch, made out of cork, leather and plastic), and slowly wear it in.
Stretching is just as important as exercising and should be incorporated into every exercise routine and also into your daily life. Stretching separates tight structures, prevents spasms and lengthens and strengthens the muscles. This will help treat and prevent sciatica. If your work routine involves a lot of repetitive movements, try to take regular breaks to stretch.
Have you ever observed a small child lifting up a load? They bend at the knees and lift their toy, using the muscles of the legs and keeping their backs straight. Unfortunately, as we grow older, we lose this perfect and safe way of moving and replace it with unhealthy patterns. We bend our backs to pick up (heavy and less heavy) objects and sometimes even twist a bit. Until one day we experience that shooting pain in our back that reminds us things can be done in a better and more ergonomic way. Lifting things in a lazy and incorrect way is especially dangerous if you are already suffering from sciatica. Every incorrect movement deepens the problem and makes you repeat the unsuitable pattern again. When lifting, get close to the object and make sure you have a solid foundation. Bend your knees and let the strong muscles of the tights and buttocks do the heavy work. Keep your back straight throughout to protect the discs, ligaments and other structures of your lower back.
People carry their (mental and physical) tensions in different parts of their bodies. Tight muscles make you adopt unusual and unhealthy postures and you start to move in an asymmetrical way. Take time to relax and mentally access the tighten structures. Your brain controls your muscles; and you need to control your brain, so it sends the right signals. Learn to do that and work through the tension. This can be used to prevent sciatica and also to relieve the chronic pain.
Lighten your load
Carrying heavy loads can sometimes be avoided with a bit of organization and forward planning. We often find ourselves (unnecessarily) carrying around big items, piles of papers and heavy books. Are you really going to read that hardback book on the train? Do you need to take extra pair of shoes with you or can you leave them in the office? Can you do your bulk shopping together with somebody else? If you do have to act as a Sherpa from time to time, be kind to your back. Distribute the load, get a good backpack and frequently change sides.
Wear the right shoes and use orthotics
Originally, shoes were not meant to make you look pretty and fashionable. They serve a distinct purpose. They should provide you with a solid foundation, give you good balance and support your feet. If they fail to do that, you will start adapting your posture and tightening muscles to catch balance and even out irregularities. If you are worried about sciatica, wear flat shoes (most of the time), shoes that fit you properly and that give you support. Sometimes, shoe inserts or orthotics can help with the posture and balance. Get assessed by a professional, so you get prescribed with inserts that will meet your specific needs.
Wear an abdominal binder
Abdominal binder is a type of a brace that keeps your body more aligned and takes some of the pressure off your muscles. It can be worn for a few weeks to help you recover from pain and is especially good for those suffering with disc problems, arthritis and spondylolisthesis (forward sliding of the vertebra). The brace makes you more aware of your posture and encourages you to correct it. It does reduce the use of your muscles, however, so should only be used for short periods of time and in combination with an exercise program.