The sciatic nerve is one that can be found in your lower back area on both sides of your spine. It extends through your buttocks and into your hips and then branches down each of your legs. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve found in the body, and it is responsible for providing sensation to the outer foot and leg. Sciatica is not a disease or injury on its own. Instead, it is referred to as a symptom of a variety of medical issues.
Sciatica is a nerve pain that starts in the lower back area, running through the buttocks, downward along the back of the leg, and then into the foot or ankle. People that have sciatica often report the pain to be burning, sharp, or shooting. It is also possible that there might be a weakness in the leg that is affected. When sudden movements like coughing occur, the pain might become worse.
Sciatica does not necessarily have to start from your back as it can happen when you sustain an injury in your hip or pelvis, or when the sciatic nerve is placed under direct pressure. This pain could be mild, or it can be so serious that the victim might find it difficult to stand, sit, or even sleep. Several treatment options can be used to treat sciatica.
The primary symptom of sciatica is a sharp pain that is felt in any part of the sciatic nerve, including down the back of either leg, your buttock, or your lower back. Some of the other symptoms include a tingling sensation in your toes and feet or numbness in your leg along the nerve. This pain can come in a range of severity levels, and it could be worsened if you have prolonged periods of sitting.
The best stretches to soothe sciatic nerve pain
The best home remedy you can to soothe sciatic nerve pain is stretching. These are the best stretches to help with sciatic nerve pain;
Standing hip extension
These are the steps to perform the standing hip extension;
- Stand tall and face a kitchen counter or wall and use it to balance yourself.
- Brace your core, let your two legs bend a little, and ensure your back is kept straight.
- From this position, raise one leg straight behind you as much as you can, ensuring that your knee is not bent further while performing this movement.
- Then hold this position for a moment and then use a slow and controlled movement to revert to the initial position.
- You have completed one rep. You should perform three sets of 10 – 12 reps for each side.
If this move is too easy, you can make it more challenging by performing it with a cable machine with very light weights attached to it.
These are the steps to perform the glutes bridge exercise:
- Lie on the floor with your back, keep your feet at hip-width apart and flat on the floor, ensure your knees are bent, and your heels are positioned away from your buttocks by a few inches.
- Brace your core to reduce the arch in your lower back, and press your arms into the floor for support.
- From this position, squeeze your glutes and push through your heels, thereby lifting your hips until a straight line is formed by your body from knees to shoulder. When you have gotten stronger and used to the movement, try to get your shins as vertical as possible when you get to the top of the movement.
- Then, hold this position for a moment and then use a slow and controlled movement to lower your hips to revert to the initial position.
- You have completed one rep. You should do three sets of 8 – 10 reps, ensuring that you have 30 to 60 seconds of rest after each set.
If this move is too challenging, you can make it easier by performing it on a supportive bed.
These are the steps to perform the hip hinge:
- First, stand tall with your hands on your hips, your knees slightly bent, and your feet hip-width apart.
- Brace your core as though you are expecting a punch to the stomach.
- Keep your knees in the same position and then bend your hips and lower your torso so that it becomes parallel to the ground. However, you can also keep going as far as you can, but ensure you don’t round your back.
- Then, hold this position for a moment, then raise your hips back to the initial position. Ensure that you push your hips forward and squeeze your glutes while lifting your torso to the initial position. This would guarantee that your hip muscles are engaged, and you don’t rely on your lower back.
- You have completed one rep. You should perform three sets of 10 – 12 reps, ensuring that you have 30 to 60 seconds of rest after each set.
These are the steps to perform the bird dog;
- Get down on all fours and keep your knees below your hips and your hands below your shoulders. Tighten your core, keep your gaze down, and your spine neutral.
- From this position, raise your right arm and extend your left leg until they align with your body.
- Hold for a moment, then lower. Repeat this movement on your other side with your left arm, and right leg extended.
- You have completed one rep. You should do 6 – 8 reps in total.
Causes of sciatic nerve pain
It has already been established that sciatic nerve pain is not a condition on its own, rather it can be a symptom to a range of medical problems. However, over 90% of sciatic nerve pain is caused by a herniated disk. The spinal column consists of 3 major parts, which include the disks, nerves, and vertebra (individual bones in the spine that protect the underlying nerves).
Cartilage is the primary substance that makes up disks, and it is a resilient and strong material that serves as a cushion between every vertebra and gives the spine its ability to be flexible. So, a herniated disk happens when a disk is moved out of place, which would result in pressure being placed on the sciatic nerve.
Some of the other causes of sciatic nerve pain include;
- Cauda equine syndrome: this is a serious and rare condition that impacts the nerves in the lower part of the spinal cord and should be attended to immediately.
- Tumors within the spine: these could lead to the compression of the root of the sciatic nerve.
- Lumbar spinal stenosis: this is when the spinal cord in the lower back becomes narrow.
- Infection or injury that affects the spine.
These are the major risk factors for sciatic nerve pain:
- Sedentary lifestyle: if you are among those that are physically inactive or sit for long periods, you have an increased chance of developing sciatic nerve pain than active people.
- Profession: some people follow a career path that would require them to lift heavy loads for prolonged periods constantly.
- Age: it is a well-known fact that as people get older, they become more susceptible to developing certain medical conditions. That is the case here as people who are in their 40s and above have an increased chance of developing sciatica.
In addition to stretching, there are other home remedies that people with sciatic nerve pain can try to help ease their discomfort and pain. Some of these treatment options include;
Use cold and heat to alleviate pain
If you are newly a victim of sciatic nerve pain, you can apply a cold pack to relieve a lot of pain. You can wrap a bag of frozen peas or a cold pack in a clean towel and place it directly onto the affected area a few times per day, ensuring it is kept on the affected area for up to 20 minutes.
If, after a few days, you are still feeling the pain, you can try using heat to help alleviate the pain. You can apply a heating pad, a hot pack, or a heat lamp on the lowest setting to the affected area. If the pain still doesn’t go away, you can try alternating between hot packs and cold packs.
Chiropractic, massage, and acupuncture treatments
Some alternative treatments could help deal with sciatic nerve pain. Your spine can be adjusted by a chiropractor in a way that boosts spinal movement, which would lead to reduced pain and also improve spine function. Lower back pain caused by sciatica can be relieved by chiropractic treatment, but it is not as efficient for radiating pain.
Massage can help loosen the tightening of your muscles that might have occurred due to sciatica. The massage would soothe the pain and improve your flexibility and mobility.
Recent research has shown that acupuncture can be effective in treating sciatica. However, ensure that you go to a licensed practitioner if you are considering acupuncture.