Sciatica, over the years, has been generalized as nerve pain that originates around the low back or buttocks with referring pain down the leg. The pain comes from the sciatic nerve becoming irritated or pinched by the surrounding muscles, mainly, the piriformis. Other sciatic issues may be a result of spinal disorders such as spinal compression causing irritation with the sciatic nerve. Treatments can be performed at home to ease the pain.
Trigger Point Therapy
Trigger point therapy activates and assuages the tender spots on the buttocks, releasing the tight muscles around the sciatic nerve. A tennis ball and a wall are needed. To perform this, place the ball between the trigger points, or the most tender spots, and the wall and gently shift the body side-to-side, up-and-down, to get a penetrating pressure massage. These trigger points vary from person to person, but the key is to find the most painful spot, whether the pain is closer to the hip or closer to the tailbone. To increase the tennis ball pressure, lean the body into the ball. To decrease the pressure, place minimal body weight on the ball.
Stretching and Yoga Benefits
Stretching and lengthening the muscles of the buttocks helps to relax and loosen the muscles around the sciatic nerve. Even if the sciatica is due to a spinal disorder and not directly related to tight muscles, the low back and hips will still benefit from practicing yoga and performing stretches. Yoga poses such as down-face dog, swan, and child pose can help stretch the muscles from the lower back to the hamstrings. Taking a yoga class to learn about correct alignment and talking to the instructor, who might be able to give hints and suggest modifications to further relax while strengthening the back, is recommended. During an acute sciatic attack, wait for the pain to lessen before stretching as there is a possibility that movement may further aggravate the pain.
Yoga Routine for Sciatica
A simple yoga routine to do for the sciatica is as follows. Remember to breath deeply and evenly in each step. Down-face dog: Start on the hands and knees. Curl the toes under and draw the hips up so that the body is standing flat on the bottom of the feet and in an upside-down "V" position. Push the hands into the ground so that the head comes in between the arms and push the hips back to stretch the hamstrings. Swan: This pose may be difficult for some, but modify it and use props as necessary to gain the benefits. From the down-face dog position, pull one knee forward until it is under the torso and sit on the hip and side of the thigh. Deepen the stretch by bending forward over the bent front leg. Child Pose: Push back up into down-face dog and slowly lower the body onto the knees and lower leg so that they lay flat on the floor. Sit on the feet and bend forward over the knees, the arms relaxed along the side of the body. Relax into the pose aiming to stretch the lower back.
Heat and Ice
Using a heating pad or an ice pad can relieve tension. For some people, heat pads may increase the inflammation, whereas others using cold packs say that the cold causes the muscle to cramp up. Although this method provides temporary and minor relief, the reduction in pain will help relax the muscle, allowing the person to function through daily activity.
Analgesic balms can help with sciatica by relaxing the muscle, and decreasing the inflammation. This is also a temporary relief, but after suffering intense pain, any relief is welcomed. For balms found in most drug stores, try Icy Hot or Bengay. A less mainstream item to try is Max Revive plaster, found online (see Resources) or at Chinese pharmacies.
Learn what causes the sciatica to flare up and make lifestyle changes to reduce the flare ups, including avoiding activities and movements that may aggravate the condition. Be mindful of the back and make movements that will not torque the body into unnatural positions. If sitting too long causes sciatica, plan to stand up and walk around every half-hour. By incorporating gentle exercise and prepping a day bag with Max Revive plasters as necessary, acute attacks can be prevented.