By Jaimi Jansen, Owner and CORE Pro Elite Trainer at Santa Cruz CORE Fitness and Rehab
Sciatica can manifest as a burning, tingling pain that runs down your leg. Or, it might be a shooting pain in your rear that makes it hard to stand up. Your leg or foot might feel weak or even numb. Sciatica takes many forms, all of them painful, inconvenient and frustrating.
Called a curse by Shakespeare, it was believed caused by devils and witches by the ancient Germans and Celts. The good news is that it can be treated and, in many cases, prevented. Here is a closer look at what causes sciatica and how to deal with it.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the pain of sciatica starts when the sciatic nerve becomes pinched. That happens in a number of ways. The cause can often be associated a herniated disk in the spine or a bone spur that grows on the vertebrae. Or, If you have diabetes, the nerve can become damaged, resulting in pain.
The cause might be spinal stenosis, trauma or injury, stress, postural imbalances or spondylolisthesis. As a person ages, the spine gradually degenerates, which may lead to sciatic pain. The body can react to muscle spasms with sciatic nerve pain.
The sympathetic nervous system which produces a flight or fight response can tighten muscles in such a way that produce an impingement of the sciatic nerve.
Pregnancy and simply carrying too much weight on your frame can cause the symptoms of sciatica. Wearing high heels can increase the likelihood of developing sciatic nerve pain. In some cases, even sleeping on a mattress that is too soft can be an aggravating factor.
Alleviating the Pain
If you are experiencing pain, try this:
- Hot and cold compresses are often helpful to relieve the pain temporarily, use heat for muscle pain and cold for nerve pain. Do not use a cold compress for more than 20 minutes without taking a break.
- Avoid sitting or standing in one position for long periods of time. This can create muscular imbalance, tension and trigger points which can lead to sciatica.
- Get postural, range of motion, muscle testing and pain point analysis of your body to determine exactly which muscles may be causing your pain from an Elite CORE Trainer, a Hanson Muscle Therapy (HMT) Practitioner or a Sports ChiroTherapy Practitioner.
- Get trigger point release on those muscles from an HMT or Sports ChiroTherapy Practitioner.
- Use a foam roller, a lacrosse ball, or a baseball to release myofascial trigger points in those tight muscles.
- After completing trigger point release, Stretch the same muscles slowly and intentionally.
- Perform Corrective Exercise to strengthen the opposing muscles to bring the body back into balance. An Elite CORE Trainer can assist you with this.
Establish Good Posture at all times during your day.
- Use Stress Reduction Techniques such as Diaphragmatic Breathing through the nose, Qigong, Tai Chi, Meditation, or Hydrotherapy.
If the pain and symptoms are severe, talk to your doctor. But, keep in mind, while he/she may prescribe medication or in very rare circumstances, surgery. Consulting a Hanson Muscle Therapist, or Elite CORE Trainer can often be an effective method of alleviating the pain and learning how to implement long-term solutions without going to such extreme measures.
Preventing the Pain
A few sensible actions can help you stay pain-free.
- Keep fit. Make sure to vary the exercise you are doing so as not to develop imbalances.
- Eat well. Choose nutritionally dense, fresh, seasonal food you enjoy and chew it well. Good nutrition and digestion help keep you strong and healthy.
- Swim. This can be a helpful form of exercise because it can help reduce pressure on the spine.
- Train weekly sessions with a personal trainer that specializes in preventative and corrective exercise. Perform corrective exercises to attain and maintain muscular balance and good posture.
- Use Stress Reduction Techniques listed above.
- Take a diaphragmatic breath, listen to your body. Be kind to yourself.
Did You Know?
Long and painful.
Your sciatic nerve runs all the way from your lower back through your buttocks and into your lower leg. It is the longest and widest nerve in your whole body. Its size accounts for how widespread and intense the pain is.
A devilish link.
Centuries ago the Germans called sciatica “The Witch’s Slot” because the pain was so sharp and sudden, they believed it was caused by demons. For the same reason, the Celts called it “The Elf’s Arrow.” In certain parts of Egypt today, sufferers believe the devil named Junin causes it.
Sciatica is also referred to as pinched nerve pain, compressed nerve pain, and lumbar radiculopathy.
Need ideas on how to select new shoes that can help your sciatica, click here to view options. Below is a helpful video for types of footwear that cause foot and backpain!
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