Sciatica is different from other types of back pain. That’s because it originates with this tender nerve. And the most common culprit of sciatica? That would be a herniated disk in your lumbar. Sometimes an accident is to blame while other times, it’s lifestyle. There are many reasons you might have sciatica syndrome arise though men and those in their middle-aged years at more likely to have it.
Other Causes of Sciatica
While herniated disks are the most common injury that can impact that sciatic nerve, there are other causes. Degenerative disk disease wears down the disks, making their height shorter and making it much easier for those nerves to be pinched. As the nerve passageways become more narrow, that leads to spinal stenosis.
If you have it, it’s a painful condition that can stop you short in the middle of your busy day. Cleveland Clinic estimates that about 40% of Americans experience sciatica in their lifetime. For some, it happens in one leg while in others, it can happen in both. It can be an inconvenient or uncomfortable feeling, or it can become so debilitating that it interferes with your quality of life.
Factors that Lead to Sciatica
Some things are beyond our control, like an accident. If you sustain an injury to your lower back or spine, you may wind up with sciatica. The same is true with simply living your life. As the human body ages, it is more prone to the wear and tear from day to day activities. However, there are other things you might be doing to put yourself more at risk.
If you’re overweight, you are putting yourself more at risk for sciatica. That imbalance of weight on the front makes your back muscles work harder, leading to strains, pains, and other problems. Chances are, if you’re overweight, you also lack a strong set of core muscles that wrap around from your back to abdomen. It works like a natural weight belt to give your body the support you need.
Those with physical jobs stand a greater chance of sciatica syndrome. Even more fascinating though, those sedentary desk jobs can be just as problematic for this condition. And of course, there are things like diabetes and osteoarthritis that can lead to sciatica when not managed properly.
What You Can Do About Sciatica
For some, sciatica feels like a burning feeling or an electric shock. For others, it can be sharp or shooting pain that nearly takes the wind out of them. As such, no one wants to continue to suffer in this way. Fortunately, there are many ways to address this condition and get improvement without having to go under the knife. A little self-care goes a long way, but a good focus on building up strength in the core and hips too can really help you feel much better faster.
Here are a few quick tips for easing pain from sciatica:
Alternate with hot and cold packs. Ice should reduce the pain and swelling first. Use it in 20 minutes intervals. After, use a hot pack for a few days in 20 minute intervals. Whichever one works best for you is what you should stick with.
Taking OTC pain meds can bring relief as well. Tylenol, Aleve, or Advil are popular choices, though if you’re on any other medications, you should check with your doctor first.
Do gentle stretches. These can help you ease into improving mobility while building strength in the hips and core, where you need it most.
Work on losing weight. This takes the burden off your spine and can ease the load, allowing you to feel better faster. There are many great exercises that can help you handle sciatica and feel like your old self again.
Best Exercises for Treating Sciatica
If you engage in regular stretching and strengthening exercises every day, you can reduce the likelihood that a flare-up of sciatica will zap through you and ruin your day. You can do them several times per day to help balance things out, especially if you are sitting all day for work.
Harvard recommends several exercises that can help you with sciatica. It all starts with laying on your back with bent knees. Alternate pulling one knee to your chest, hold it for 5 to 10 seconds and release. Repeat this process with each leg anywhere from 5 to 10 times.
While you’re still in that position with bent knees, pull them both to your chest simultaneously and hold the position for up to 10 seconds. Rest, then repeat, doing this 5 to 10 times. After this exercise, put your arms along your sides and flatten your lower back so it touches the floor. Simply hold that position for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times.