They say that time heals pain. In the case of sciatica, this saying is true for some people. With a few sciatic stretches, or visiting a chiropractor for sciatica, the pain may go away on its own.
Sciatica pain is directly linked to your sciatic nerve. This specific nerve is responsible for carrying messages from the brain to your spinal cord and then to your legs. It’s located in your buttock area and runs down to the lower part of the knee. This nerve branches into the other nerves in the body, continuing down the leg, into your feet and toes.
What is Sciatica?
It’s very rare for an injury to the sciatic nerve to occur. The term “sciatica” is generally used to describe pain, which is characterised by the pain often felt in just one side of the body, particularly the lower back radiating down the leg. Most people feel the pain radiating from the back to below the knee. Sciatica is a common problem. Although there are a few other causes, sciatica is primarily due to a herniated disk. Pain and numbness are the typical signs of sciatica pain, which are felt in one side of the body, specifically the leg.
Sciatica pain not only results in discomfort. Some people note that the pain can be severe. However, many cases do not require treatment unless sciatica is associated with weakness in the leg, bowel, or bladder. Normally, you can see a chiropractor for sciatica but in this instance, the patient may benefit from surgery.
How Do You Know It’s Sciatica Pain?
From the definitions above, you probably find that it is a bit tricky to say whether the pain you feel is sciatica or not. Some people diagnosed with sciatica say it’s sharp and shooting pain from the buttock area to the leg. Others say it’s stabbing, electric, or even burning. Sciatica pain can be constant whilst others say it comes and goes. It’s usually more bearable on the lower back than the leg, where pain becomes severe.
People suffering from sciatica pain often complain that it gets worse whenever they stay in the same position for an extended period, whether sitting or standing. It’s also more problematic when twisting the upper body after standing up.
If you feel pain from the lower back to your leg when you sneeze, cough, or make any sudden movement, you most likely have sciatica. If you’re still unsure, the best way to get a correct diagnosis is to, of course, have an appointment with your chiropractor for sciatica.
Signs of Sciatica
What does sciatica pain feel like? For most patients, pain is like a burning sensation that does not seem to go away. Others say a shooting pain generally begins in the lower back (whilst some say it starts in the buttock). In both situations, the pain always radiates from the back or the front of the thigh. It then goes down to the leg. It may sometimes be felt on the feet.
Other signs to watch out for include:
- Numbness in the back of the leg
- Tingling in the leg
- Weakness in the leg
- Heaviness on the affected leg
- Only one side of the body feels pain
- Symptoms get worse due to posture
While we know that sciatica affects only one side of the body, it does not mean it’s not sciatica if you feel pain on both sides. Although rare, it can still happen. Posture-induced signals occur due to sitting, bending, lying down, or standing up. These symptoms can be severe and may stop you from accomplishing your regular tasks. The good news is that you can alleviate the pain by stretching for the sciatic nerve or walking. Others attest that applying a heat or ice pack helps them feel better.
Causes of Sciatica Pain
Several conditions can lead to sciatica, particularly those involving the spine. That’s because the nerve along the back can be pinched or damaged, which results in pain. Sciatic pain may also be due to an injury. Here’s a list of the most common causes of sciatica:
- Herniated Disks: Having a herniated disk means that a layer of your spinal bones’ cartilage (disk) is damaged. A bone’s cartilage is protected by a thick material, which allows flexibility as you move around. A ripped cartilage layer causes the protective substance to bulge outwards. It may spill out of the disk itself in some instances, compressing on the sciatic nerve. This is why you feel numbness and pain in the lower limb.
- Spinal Stenosis: You may know this condition as lumbar spinal stenosis represented by an irregular constriction of the lower spinal column. Due to the tightening of the canal, the spinal cord feels the pressure and ultimately affects the sciatic nerve roots.
- Piriformis Syndrome: Although it’s a rare condition, piriformis syndrome can cause sciatic pain. This neuromuscular disorder involves the piriformis muscle that connects the bottom part of the spine to the thighbones. Piriformis syndrome causes the muscle to contract or tighten involuntarily. This reaction leads to sciatica.
- Spondylolisthesis: This degenerative disk disorder causes sciatica. One sign of the condition is the spinal bone extending forward, which pinches the sciatic nerve.
Ageing, severe injuries due to an accident, diabetes, and being obese are risk factors that you should look into, as well.
5 Sciatic Stretches That Can Help
Is sciatica getting in the way? Try these five stretching techniques from our head chiropractor for sciatica pain relief.
- Reclining Pigeon Pose: This yoga pose helps open the hips. To start, lay on your back and bring up your right leg. Clasp your hands together behind the thigh. With your fingers locked, lift the left leg as you place your right ankle on top of your left knee. Hold this position to engage your piriformis muscle and deep hip rotator muscle. Repeat the same pose, but this time with your other leg.
- Sitting Pigeon Pose: This easy yoga pose requires sitting on the floor with your legs straight in front. Then, bend your right leg as you slowly put your right ankle on top of your left knee. Gently lean forward until your upper body touches your thigh. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds before releasing. This pose stretches your glutes and your lower back. Be sure to do the same on the other side.
- The Piriformis Stretch: The best way to describe this pose is to have your knee to the opposite shoulder. So, lie on your back, leaving your legs extended and feet upwards. Then, bend your leg with your hands clasping around the knee. Slowly pull the same leg across your body until it touches the opposite shoulder. If you’re stretching your right leg, it should touch your left shoulder. Switch to the other leg after a total of three reps.
- Standing Piriformis Stretch: This next exercise is similar to the previous one, except you do it in a standing position. Try to perform this without support. If not, you can stand against a wall with your feet away from it. Start with the painful side, placing your leg over the knee of the other leg. The standing leg should be bent a little, as well as your hips at a 45-degree angle. You should be making the number 4 with this stance. Keep this position for about 30 seconds or a minute if you can before switching to the other leg.
- Hamstring Stretch While Standing: If you feel tightness and pain in your hamstring, this is one of the sciatic stretches that can help. Begin by placing your foot on a chair or any elevated surface. Pick one that meets your hips or a little below it, whichever is more comfortable. Flex your foot to ensure that your legs and toes are straight. Bend your body slightly towards your foot, aiming to deepen the stretch for about 30 seconds. Do the same on the other side.
Even though the sciatic stretches mentioned above are gentle, always exercise caution. Sciatica can be debilitating for some people. It’s best to seek help from a professional, such as a chiropractor for sciatica, who can help relieve the pain gently and effectively.