How to Outsmart Sciatic Pain With 10 Tricks You Can Do On Your Own

How to Outsmart Sciatic Pain With 10 Tricks You Can Do On Your Own

Are you suffering from sciatica? Are you worried that pain, numbness and tingling are here to stay? Up to 40% of Americans are believed to experience sciatica at some point in their life.

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.

This article provides you with some tricks and common sense approaches that have been described in the book Sciatica Solutions, written by Loren Fishman, MD, a back pain specialist and director of Manhattan Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in New York, and Carol Ardman.

Sciatica 101

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).

10 Things You Can Do To Outsmart Sciatica

1. 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.

You can strengthen your back by following these 13 simple exercises and you can strengthen your core by following these 8 effective exercises.

If you want to improve your posture, I have effective exercises for improving your posture. Maintaining a proper posture is also one of the 70 habits featured in my e-book 70 Powerful Habits For A Great Health.

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.

Loren Fishman is a great proponent of yoga for relief of sciatica pain and indeed I’ve already written about the most effective yoga stretches for sciatic nerve pain relief. He also advised taking up Pilates, Alexander technique, Fieldenkrais method or calisthenics*. For those preferring unstructured, solo activities, swimming is a great option too.

Most of all, Fishman encourages people to DO SOMETHING and stop looking for excuses. Sure, after years of inactivity, the first sessions will be hard, but it is important to find the motivation and self discipline and get going.

*A quick glossary:

Alexander technique – a technique which releases body tensions and improves posture and coordination.

Fieldenkrais method – educational system that teaches increased self-awareness of functional movements.

Calisthenics – exercises performed without the use of any equipment or apparatus; you use your body’s weight, also known as body-weight training.

2. 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.

3. 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. According to the authors of the book Sciatica Solutions, some yoga postures can be particularly good for re-developing good posture. If you want to improve your posture, just follow my best exercises for improving your posture and if you haven’t done yoga before, you can start with my 20 minute yoga class for complete beginners.

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.

 4. Stretch

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 and combine these 10 yoga poses to make you feel fantastic in 15 minutes.

5. Lift correctly

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 to prevent pain and injury.

 6. Relax

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. If you want to reduce stress, just follow these 7 simple tips or you can use these essential oils.

7. 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.

8. 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.

Avoid wearing high heels

Before You Put Your Stilettos On, Consider The Following Points:

Anatomical changes can develop as a consequence of wearing high heels. Muscles in the calves and back shorten, which can lead to pain and muscle spasms. Achilles tendon is the structure that is often affected in women who are regularly wearing high heels. This is due to the heel being in an unnatural position – it’s pointed upwards, which tightens it up, and consequently shortens the tendon.

You force the body into a position that can over time damage your knees, hips and lower back (and here are other habits that quietly damage your knees). When you wear heels, the body tilts forward to compensate for the unnatural feet position, and the back then over-arches backwards. This creates a strain. The changed position of the spine can put pressure on the nerves and cause sciatica – a nerve entrapment, which is an extremely painful condition.

When you wear high heels, the distribution of your body weight changes. At first, the body can again adopt its natural position after the heels are removed. However, over time, the unhealthy patterns can persist even when you take the shoes off.

Natalie A. Nevins, an osteopathic physician from Hollywood, who specializes in family medicine, osteopathic manipulative medicine, and neuromusculoskeletal medicine, warns that long-term wear of high heels has been linked to overworked or injured leg muscles, osteoarthritis of the knee, plantar fasciitis and low back pain.

9. 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.

10. Check your exercise routine

Sometimes it can be your exercise routine that is causing pain. If you feel that things get worse after your exercise session, yoga class or morning jog, stop with it for a few days. Observe if the pain lessens or disappears. Then, introduce the exercises back, one by one. In this way, you’ll be able to recognize the culprit and eliminate it for good.

It might also be helpful to get some assistance from a specialist (a physiotherapist or other specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation), to get your exercise routine just right for you.

For any unexplained pain that persists (or worsens), see a doctor and get it properly assessed.

For more information on how to treat sciatic pain, read my other articles:
1. Top 8 Natural Treatments For Sciatic Pain
2. Effective Yoga Stretches For Sciatic Nerve Pain Relief
3. How to Use Tennis Ball to Relieve Sciatic Pain and Back Pain
4. Foam Roller Exercises for Sciatic and Back Pain

Healthy and Natural World