What is Sciatica??
Sciatica is defined as pain in the lower extremities resulting from irritation to the sciatic nerve. Pain is typically felt from lower back to the back of the thigh and can radiate to below the knee. Sciatica can cause pain, a burning sensation, numbness or tingling, and can feel like a jolt or electric shock.
Sciatica occurs most commonly from a disc herniation pressing directly on sciatic nerve. Other causes of sciatica include muscle spasm, pregnancy or lower back injuries.
Piriformis is a muscle found deep in the buttocks that runs directly over the sciatic nerve, when this muscle goes into spasm it puts pressure on the sciatic nerve triggering symptoms of sciatica, Piriformis syndrome is more common in women.
Sciatica is mostly triggered in men who wear their wallet in their back pocket, as it puts pressure on the piriformis muscle and aggravate sciatic nerve over time. While sciatica is often associated with lower back pain it can also be present without it. Severe sciatica can make walking difficult if not impossible. Symptoms can be aggravated by walking, bending at the waist, coughing, sneezing and prolonged sitting and relived by lying down. Pain relief by changing positions can be partial or complete. Usually only one side of the body is affected. Up to 90% of people recover from sciatica without surgery. Most people who get sciatica are between the ages of 30-50 women may be more likely to develop the problem during pregnancy.
How can I help myself??
Low back conditioning and stretching exercises are employed to recover from Sciatica. For most people Sciatica responds to self-care measures, and although resting a little can provide relief, long periods of inactivity can make symptoms worse.
Self-care treatments include:
- Cold packs - Initially you may get relief from cold packs when placed on the painful area for 10 mins on, 10 mins off, 10 mins on every hour.
- Hot packs - After 2-3 days apply heat to the areas that hurt if continue to have pain try alternating hot and cold packs.
- Stretching - For low back to take some pressure off the sciatic nerve, avoid jerking, twisting or bouncing while performing stretch and hold for 30 seconds
- Medication - Anti-inflammatory and pain relief medication can help to relieve inflammation and pain
How can sciatica be prevented??
Sciatica can be prevented to some extent but it is not always possible as the condition may reoccur. Conditioning exercises such as Yoga or Pilates help strengthen lower back and core muscles to help prevent injury. The following can play a key role in preventing a sciatic flare up:
- Exercise regularly - Strengthen back and core muscles to help maintain proper posture and alignment. This can help take pressure off the spine therefore your sciatic nerve.
- Maintain proper posture when you sit - Choose a seat with good lower back support, arm rests and a swivel base. Consider placing a pillow or rolled towel in the small of your back to maintain its natural curve. Keep your knees and hips level.
- Use good body mechanics - When standing for long periods rest one foot on a stool or small box from time to time. When lifting something heavy let your lower extremities do the work. Move straight up and down, keep back straight and bend only at the knees. Hold the load close to your body, avoid lifting and twisting simultaneously. Find a lifting partner if object is heavy or awkward.
Why is Myotherapy a good choice??
A Myotherapist is a good choice when seeing a practitioner for Sciatica as we are able to relieve muscle tension and spasm, particularly through the piriformis muscle which is common to irritate the sciatic nerve. We are also able to assess and correct postural dysfunctions to help relieve pressure off the areas irritating the sciatic nerve and we can also offer corrective exercises and Pilates to help strengthen your core and lower back muscles to help prevent further flare-ups.
Tegan Thomson – Myotherapist