Do you have consistent leg or back pain that you might describe as burning, tingling, or even sharp? Sciatica could be to blame.
Sciatica pain starts in the lower back, moves through the buttocks and into the large sciatic nerve in the back of each leg. Because it often gets worse when you sit down, managing your sciatica pain throughout the day might feel like a full-time job of its own.
One of the more common mistakes is accepting that sciatica pain is part of life, when in fact, with a holistic, customized treatment plan, your pain can be banished for good.
How can you make your daily routine significantly more comfortable and pain-free? Here are four simple tips to get you started.
1. Optimize your Workspace
Sitting for long periods of time has become the norm for many of us. Unfortunately, when you’re trying to manage sciatica, even sitting can feel incredibly painful.
For sciatica patients, sitting down can feel significantly more comfortable with a well-designed chair and well-thought-out workspace. If possible, invest in a supportive ergonomic chair to provide support, and add in additional low back support by placing a lumbar pillow (or a rolled-up towel in a pinch) at the base of your chair. If your chair has wheels, you can easily roll yourself closer to your desk to avoid twisting and turning your body and potentially aggravating your sciatic nerve.
When using a computer, place the monitor in front of you at eye level and keep the keyboard and mouse nearby to minimize reaching. Keep in mind the way you sit also matters. Avoid crossing your legs, and keep your hips and knees bent at a 45-degree angle.
Whenever possible, stand up every 20 minutes and take a few laps around your office or workspace. When moving from sitting to standing, don’t bend at the waist to get up from your chair as this can stretch and irritate your sciatic nerve. Instead, simply slide to the front of your seat and straighten your legs until you’re standing.
Depending on your office environment, you might also consider investing in a sit-to-stand desk. It lets you adjust your desk’s height so you can easily transition from sitting to standing.
2. Go for a Walk
Walking can provide relief from sciatic pain by kickstarting the release of endorphins into your system and reducing the inflammation around your sciatic nerve roots.
Walk at a brisk pace for about 30 minutes, three to four times a week. When you’re walking, be sure to stand up straight to engage the muscles in both your core and lower back. To avoid burnout or injury, begin with short 5-minute walks and slowly build up your endurance.
If you’re in too much pain for a walk, consider going for a gentle swim in a warm pool instead. You’ll enjoy many of the same benefits with even less strain on your lower back.
3. Embrace the Mind/Body Connection
With so much focus on physical symptoms, it’s easy to overlook how powerful your mind can be in managing pain symptoms. When the mind focuses on something else, many patients can experience quick relief from their symptoms.
Mental imagery, meditation, and other relaxation techniques can decrease your pain levels and don’t require a lot of time– strive for 10 minutes each day, or 30 minutes three times a week.
2-3 minutes of controlled breathing in a quiet room is another option. And best of all, you can do this just about anywhere, even at the office!
4. Invest in a Good Mattress
Your body needs rest. A soft, unsupportive mattress forces your muscles to engage, even when you’re sleeping. If you’re not sleeping well or your muscles are unable to relax properly each night, you’ll eventually experience muscle fatigue and exhaustion. Invest in a quality mattress; look for a mattress with firm support, to ease the tension on your spine. You’ll sleep better and your body will get the down time it needs.
When To See A Doctor For Sciatica Pain
While there are many lifestyle changes you can make to your home and work environments to manage your sciatica pain, professional medical treatment is recommended. Chiropractic care zeroes in on the cause of your pain, provides immediate relief, and manages your ongoing care by implementing a customized treatment plan.
Although every patient is different, the cornerstone of chiropractic treatment for sciatica is usually a chiropractic adjustment. Gentle pressure is placed on the painful areas to help reduce nerve irritability and bring back your range of motion. Stretching techniques may also be used on your sore muscles and joints so they’ll feel better right away.
An important part of managed care is getting to know the patient and setting goals for the future. With a holistic, customized treatment plan that includes therapeutic treatment, maintenance care, exercise, and activity modification, your pain can be banished for good.