The term “Sciatica” is not a medical condition, but rather a symptom of underlying degenerative disc disease, or spinal stenosis. Ji states from the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Journal that “90% of cases, sciatica is caused by a herniated disc with nerve-root compression.” (Ji, n.d.).The pain one can feel can range from mild to severe, with radiation of pain along the distribution of sciatic nerve in the leg. Numbness, tingling, and sharp pains with paresthesia and sensory dysfunction are some of the discomforts one may feel when dealing with this impingement. “Sciatica symptoms occur when the large sciatic nerve is irritated or compressed in the lumbar spine.
The sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in the body and is composed of individual nerve roots that start by branching out from the spine in the lower back and combine to form the “sciatic nerve.” (Hochschuler, n.d.).
There are millions that suffer with sciatica around the world, and it inhibits their way of life drastically, as small tasks such as sitting can be painful. A clinical study was done on 301 patients with Sciatica, by the International Musculoskeletal Medicine journal regarding “Hypothesis generation for targeted back pain treatment” and the results were informative. “The average duration of an episode of sickness, requiring absence from work due to sciatica was 16.9 days, whereas lumbago was shorter at 9.3 days.” (Sweetman, n.d.).When seeking non-surgical treatment, there are many practices you can do right from your home to help alleviate the pain that Sciatica causes. The pain is rarely on both sides of the body, but it is still important to incorporate the treatment on both, so that you are not throwing your body off balance.
5 Tips for Alleviating Sciatic Pain:
- Heat and Ice: Based on what you prefer, start with heat or ice and apply to the affected area. Leave the heat or ice on for at least 20 minutes, and alternate every two hours. If you are using ice, do not directly apply to the skin, as it could cause ice burn, or frost bite. (Hochschuler, n.d.).
- Acupuncture: Keep in mind that acupuncture has not been shown by scientific studies to help sciatica, but it may work for you. (“Sciatic Pain Relief, n.d.). “Since sciatica is a channel disorder, acupuncture of points removing channel obstruction and promoting qi and blood circulation is indicated in its treatment.” (Ji, n.d.).
- Massage: Massage can increase the blood flow in the body, and help the body heal itself. This can especially help if the area if affected by muscle spasms. A regular weekly massage may help the lower back region relax, and could create additional flexibility that is deeply affected by Sciatica. (Top 10 Home Remedies, 2014).
- Specific Stretches and Exercises: You will need to consult your doctor on what exercises are applicable to your case of Sciatica. A simple knee to chest stretch will help improve the flexibility in your lower back and decrease the tension on the sciatic nerve. Another harmless yet effective stretch is knee knocking. You lie flat on your back and slide your heels toward the buttock region. Your knees are up and you sway them left and right on each side of your body. (Top 10 Home Remedies, 2014). This too, opens up the lower back area and promotes flexibility.
- Valerian Root: Valerian root is a natural supplement that works as a relaxer, and alleviates chronic nerve pain. The supplement works best when taken three times a day at 150 mg per dose. However, everyone's tolerances and symptoms are different so consult your doctor before taking any supplements. (Top 10 Home Remedies, 2014).
The ultimate goal of non-surgical treatment is to alleviate pain and rid your body of any neurological symptoms caused by the compression of the nerve root. There are many exercises that your physical therapist may recommend when battling with Sciatica. If none of the above remedies are working, there are creams, pain medications, epidural injections, and chiropractic treatments that would have to be recommended by your doctor before any surgeries would take place.
- Hochschuler M.D., S. (n.d.). What You Need to Know About Sciatica. Retrieved December 4, 2015, from https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/sciatica/what-you-need-know-about-sciatica
- Sweetman, B. (n.d.). Remote manifestations of low back problems; sciatica and extent of leg involvement – a statistical clinical study. International Musculoskeletal Medicine, 72-77. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
- Sciatica Pain Relief: Medications, Exercises, and Alternative Treatments. (n.d.). Retrieved December 4, 2015, from https://www.webmd.com/back-pain/guide/sciatica-pain-relief-options?page=2
- Ji, M., Wang, X., Chen, M., Shen, Y., Zhang, X., & Yang, J. (n.d.). The Efficacy of Acupuncture for the Treatment of Sciatica: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 1-12. Retrieved December 4, 2015, from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2015/192808/
- Home Remedies for Sciatic Nerve Pain | Top 10 Home Remedies. (2014, December 20). Retrieved December 4, 2015, from https://www.top10homeremedies.com/home-remedies/home-remedies-sciatica.html