When you’re enduring symptoms of sciatica, irritation of the sciatic nerve that runs from your lower back to your leg, all you can think about is how to get rid of them. Sciatica is a painful problem that stems from a number of sources. Herniated lumbar discs, degenerated discs and even small stress fractures can irritate a nerve and send pain shooting from your lower back through your legs.
When experiencing sciatica, it may seem like you are feeling “pins and needles” up and down a leg (rarely both) — an electrical, prickly sensation that feels worse when you’re standing as opposed to lying down or walking. You’ll notice the pain stems from your lower back, but it will feel significantly worse down the back of a thigh and down into a leg or foot. Depending on why you’re experiencing sciatica, whether you have a herniated disc versus a fracture, etc., your symptoms may vary in location and strength. You could be experiencing shooting pain that affects your thigh all the way to your toes—and your day-to-day life.
What should you do to try to alleviate the constant sting of sciatica? Eighty to 90 percent of people with sciatica get better over time. Treatments range from holistic approaches to surgery in very extreme cases. Advanced Medical of the Twin Cities can help those living in Minneapolis, St. Paul and surrounding areas alleviate the sting of sciatica. Here six ways to effectively thwart the effects of sciatica now:
Acupuncture has been used for centuries as it’s believed to be a pain-relieving alternative to drugs and other medicines. This medical practice includes the use of very fine needles being inserted into precise points on your body. Rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture is used to remove points where energy, your body’s chi, is blocked.
According to Chinese philosophy, your chi travels along meridians, or pathways, throughout your body. When your meridians get blocked, you could experience pain or illness—like sciatica. Acupuncture is recognized as an effective treatment for pain relief according to the National Institute of Health. Especially when paired with electrical pulses, acupuncture stimulates the body’s systems—like the nervous system—and is a great non-medicinal alternative to resolving pain from sciatica.
Worried acupuncture will hurt? Don’t worry. Advanced Medic of the Twin Cities wants you to have the peace of mind that acupuncture is a pain-free process and can relieve you from sciatica pain with treatment.
2. Ice and Heat
Even though using ice packs and heating pads won’t reach the source of the pain since the sciatic nerve is buried too deep, using hot and cold treatments can give your body other input in the painful area, and that brings the pain down a notch. Apply ice or heat for no longer than 15 minutes at a time, several times per day to get temporary pain relief from sciatica.
3. TENS Unit
TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and is a non-medicinal, non-invasive alternative to surgery or injections for sciatica treatment. Roughly 70 to 80 percent of patients experience pain relief during their initial use of TENS therapy. Through the use of electrodes that stick to your skin, TENS units will transmit an electric current to your pain points. When deciding where to place the electrodes, feel around where you’re experiencing pain from sciatica. When pressing different areas, note where one area elicits more pain than others as those will be where you want to stick an electrode. These trigger points will usually be along the sciatic nerve, and with regular TENS unit therapy, you could be on the road to sciatica recovery.
When you imagine receiving a massage, you might picture a very relaxing experience—almost Zen in a way. Massages for sciatica might be a bit different. Since the sciatic nerve is buried beneath a muscle a called the piriformis. A massage to reach trigger points in the piriformis and other muscles along the lower back and glutes could mean some serious digging in. Many times, though, this rigorous massage means sweet relief.
5. Yoga and Exercise
Much like receiving massage, yoga will help bring relief to the piriformis muscle, which is likely inflamed and pinching the sciatic nerve. Not only can yoga help improve your posture so you’ll be seated in less painful positions, but it can also help stretch affected muscles. If your sciatica is caused by the piriformis being tight and pressing against the sciatic nerve, yoga could significantly relieve your pain through certain exercises and positions.
6. Steroid Injections
Another alternative to surgery to relieve your sciatica is an epidural steroid injection. This treatment is meant to provide pain relief. If a steroid injection doesn’t treat the pain long-term, it will at least provide the patient enough pain relief to begin with rehabilitative stretching and exercising. Most often, pain relief is experienced in regard to leg pain instead of low back pain. Epidural steroid injections are generally a last step before surgery and could be the solution to eliminating the need for one.
Start Healing Your Sciatica Today
Advanced Medical of the Twin Cities is a compilation of medical doctors, chiropractors, rehab therapists and other health care providers all ready to help you combat the pains of sciatica. Surgery for sciatica is a last resort that will alleviate pain, however, you may find the relief you’re looking for by doing one or all of the things above. When sciatica pain is mild, consider taking a pain reliever such as ibuprofen in conjunction with any of these six remedies. Some of them, such as yoga, heat and cold treatment, and using a TENS unit, can be done on your own in the comfort of home. Other treatments, such as acupuncture and massage, are time-friendly. Considering budget-friendly and non-surgical alternatives like these six highly effective ways to alleviate sciatica could have you on the way to pain relief and back to doing your normal day-to-day activities in no time.