Here we go again…after nearly a decade of freedom from the agony of sciatica pain, I’m feeling that horribly familiar discomfort again.
The pain starts in my tush and winds around my hip and even goes down my leg a bit at times. Having been through this before, I think I know what’s happening…but I never really know how to handle it.
And what’s crazy is that, despite how common this complain is—about one in three adults will have it at one point or another and it accounts for about five percent of back pain complaints—there’s no one foolproof way to make it go away, no surefire consensus that I can simply follow.
I’ve heard just about everything touted as a “cure”— from large doses of OTC anti-inflammatory medicines, to cortisone injections; from physical therapy to psychotherapy (it’s all in your head!); from acupuncture to special sports massage to a series of crackling chiropractic adjustments. Ice, heat, vigorous sessions on a foam roller–I feel like I’ve heard it all! It’s all good advice, but sometimes I just don’t know where to start.
It seems like sciatica is one of those ailments that seems to prompt endless, sometimes contradictory and often all-over-the-place advice. As for me, I don’t know quite what to do. What I do know and trust are these few facts:
1. Most of time, sciatica goes away on it’s own. The inflammation around the sciatic nerve (whether it’s soft tissue or a protruding spinal disc) simply dissipates and the pain slowly eases off within 6 weeks. On the flip side, it can come and go…making it hard to know if you’re “better” or not.
2. Walking works. While it can sometimes be tough to put one foot in front of the other, going for a walk increases blow flow throughout the body and can help oxygenate tissues in the problematic area. A 2005 study in the American Journal of Public Health actually found that walking was MORE helpful in terms of pain and discomfort than doing more “traditional” low-back exercises. And what’s more, simply getting out and moving can help lift your spirit. As a long-time runner, not being able to get those endorphins and be active is very hard, but if I can at LEAST move my body a few minutes a day, it’s better than nothing!
3. Focusing on the ABCs helps. And by ABCs I mean, keeping my posture as proper as possible: Abdominals pulled in (not pushing out); Butt and pelvis tucked under (not thrust out) and chest high and forward (not caving in). Simply standing (and sitting) in the ABC posture feels better.
Beyond that, I’m all ears. Does anyone have any great tips or advice on helping ease sciatica? Extra points for things I can try at home, since finding the time to see a physical therapist several times a week is quite tough!