Chronic pain can seriously affect your quality of life. Those who have had the misfortune to deal with sciatica, know just how unpleasant, and even downright debilitating it can be, and how hard it is to manage and relieve that pain. Let’s take a look at what sciatica is, and how to deal with it.
What Is Sciatica?
Sciatica is pain, numbness or tingling in the sciatic nerve. Because the nerve runs all the way down from the lower back, through the buttock, and down the leg, the pain often radiates along its entire path, usually on one side of the body. There are several possible causes of sciatica. The most common by far is spinal disc hernia, or another obstacle pressing down on the nerve. The resulting inflammation of the nerve causes the pain. Luckily, most cases can be solved without surgery, and actually resolve on their own.
When to Seek Medical Attention for Sciatica?
If your symptoms persist for longer than a month, or you are experiencing severe pain, it’s time to talk to your doctor. The doctor will most likely want to hear about the length and severity of your symptoms, whether the pain is accompanied by weakness or numbness in the leg, whether you have had any injuries that may have contributed to the condition, and whether you have already tried any treatments. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, the doctor might request several tests to determine the exact cause. Once you have a diagnosis, your doctor is likely to prescribe medication to soothe the acute inflammation, and physical therapy, which is the long-term treatment for sciatica. When suffering from an acute flare up of sciatica, your doctor will probably recommend you use cold packs for the initial couple of days, then start applying heat – in the form of heat packs, pads or lamps.
Do Lifestyle Changes Help?
The answer is a resounding yes! A sedentary lifestyle wreaks havoc on our bodies in many ways, and sciatica is just one of them. Poor posture and weak core and back muscles can cause conditions that lead to sciatica, and those who are already afflicted know that long periods of sitting usually exacerbate the pain. Even with an acute case, doctors recommend only a day or two of bed rest. Longer periods of inactivity can actually make the situation worse instead of better. Make the effort to maintain proper posture at all times – after a while you’ll get used to it and you won’t have to think about it all the time. Vitamins B6 and B12 are essential for nerve health – include them in your diet or get them in supplement form. Being overweight is also a negative factor in sciatica, so weight loss is recommended in case of obesity.
Alternative Medicine Can Help Your Sciatica Issue
Some people experience significant benefits from alternative treatments such as acupuncture and chiropractic. A licensed acupuncturist can help you by inserting hair-thin needles into specific points of your body. The treatment is painless, and can be very effective in treating chronic pain. A chiropractor is a licensed professional who can help you with pain relief by manipulating and adjusting your spine in order to increase its mobility. However, before you head to a chiropractor, it’s important to have an imaging test such as an X-ray or MRI, to properly diagnose any potential spinal damage or injury. A massage can also contribute to muscle relaxation and pain relief. It increases blood flow to the affected area and helps your body release endorphins. If your pain is severe enough to restrict your movement, look into mobile massage in Sydney.
Exercise Is a Life-Saver
The best thing you can do for yourself is to exercise regularly. In an acute case of inflammation, your doctor will prescribe physical therapy with a professional. However, it’s crucial that you continue exercising regularly even when you aren’t in pain. In fact, by engaging in regular exercise, you lower the chances of another flare up. The key to your physical routine is to strengthen your muscles, and stretch to improve spinal mobility by relaxing tight muscles. Strengthening your core muscles – the ones in your lower back and stomach – is the key to getting rid of sciatica. Your doctor or physiotherapist can recommend the best exercises. Or you can simply take up yoga or Pilates. These are the activities that focus on core strength, and also provide a good amount of stretching – while at the same time being safe for sciatica patients. Although it may sound counter-intuitive, walking is another great way to soothe your sciatica. Start with shorter walks, and build up gradually.
Sciatica is extremely unpleasant and living with chronic pain can be draining. However, by taking better care of yourself you can significantly improve your condition.