Sciatica in its true meaning of the word refers to pain that radiates the course of the sciatic nerve, which supplies the posterior leg. When this nerve becomes impinged or irritated your symptoms can include pain, numbness, pins & needles and weakness from the low back down to the toes.
So what can you do at home to help your Sciatic symptoms?
Avoid prolonged postures
Pressure on the nerve is greatest when sitting and second to that when standing in a stationary position.
The best way to eradicate exacerbation of your sciatic symptoms in these positions is to take regular movement breaks when sitting for prolonged periods, anything greater than 30 minutes. And standing is easier with movement so walk instead of standing still.
Keeping moving stops a continuous load on the nerves and prevents inflammation building up around these structures.
Hot & Cold therapy
Inflammation surrounding the sciatic nerve can be a pain source in itself so managing your body's response can provide pain relief.
This can be achieved by taking a hot pack (or wheat bag/ hot water bottle) and applying to the Low back region for 2 mins, followed by a cold pack (or ice pack/ frozen peas) for a further 2 mins. Continue alternating this pattern for 10 minutes, finishing with heat.
Using hot & cold therapy interferes with sensory processing of the pain area, and helps in the reduction of inflammation, providing pain relief.
Getting a good nights sleep is important as these hours of rest are critical in the tissue repair and healing process. However, achieving this isn't a simple feat when suffering from pain.
Finding a comfortable position to fall asleep in is often the first hurdle which sciatic pain has us stumble at. You can make this easier by using pillows to support your body in a position where you feel most comfortable and your sciatic nerve is under less tension.
Bending the knees to reduce the stretch on the sciatic nerve can be a great way to offload, as an additional step you can then use pillows under the knees to allow your muscles and joints to relax into this position.
You can also take benefit from using a pillow, this time between the knees to keep the pelvis and low back in a more neutral position. This helps keep your pelvis square and avoid any additional rotation or bending through the lower back.
Where possible sleeping on your stomach should be avoided. However if this is the only position you can get comfortable in using pillows to support your lower back like with the back and side sleeping positions. In this position you want the pillow under your stomach/ pelvis to reduce additional stress on the lumbar curve.
'Movement is medicine'
When we are in pain or we move and experience pain we make the common misconception to avoid movement. However, movement is necessary to aid recovery and staying physically active as much as possible achieves this.
Little and often, getting up every hour is important.
Shortening your stride length will reduce the stretch on the Sciatic nerve.
Engage your core and focus on your posture to avoid compensation injury.
If absolutely essential use support to help you get moving.
Low back exercises
Key exercises to improve your pain and speed up your recovery;
Knee Hugs & Rolls
Whilst laying on your back gently bring both knees up towards your chest, hold this position for 15-20 seconds, relax and repeat 3 times.
Then for the knee rolls, in the same position plant your heels comfortably and gently roll the knees side to side as far as comfortable, putting rotation through the spine and a stretch on the lower back. Do this more rhythmically pain permitting, aiming for 5 repetitions a side.
Also laying on your back, for the symptomatic leg, lift the leg placing your hands or a towel behind the knee. From here slowly straighten the leg as far as comfortable then return to the starting position. Continue this for up to 1 minute.
For this stretch you have 2 variations;
Laying flat on your back bend the knee of your symptomatic leg and bring up towards your chest, from here use the opposite hand to hold the knee and gently pull across the body. Hold for 15-20 seconds and repeat 3x3x per day.
Also on your back bring both knees up towards chest, crossing the foot of the symptomatic leg across the opposite leg, reach through the good side holding the back of the thigh and gently pull towards your chest.
The best place to do this stretch is at the base of your staircase (if you live in a flat or bungalow find a low level stool or piece of furniture). Stand facing the stairs and place one heel on the lowest step, you should have a slightly bent knee on your standing leg. If this is too easy move up to the next step. Lean forwards if comfortable to do so to deepen the stretch. Repeat 3x3x per day holding for 15-20 seconds per stretch.
Important: These stretches are not tailored to your individual symptoms, they will improve symptoms however if the cause or aggravating factors to your sciatic pain have not resolved symptoms will persist. In this instance contact our team and they will be able to plan the best outcome over a free telephone consultation or book you in for a face to face appointment.