Sciatica hurts. It hits out of nowhere and can lead to paralyzing pain, leaving you with a big struggle to walk, live, and do the things you want.
It’s a common type of pain, but also highly misunderstood. Up to 40% of people will experience it at some point. However, many choose to lump it in with regular back pain. Sciatica pain, however, is different. It comes from pressure on the sciatic nerves, located in the spine, and often comes and goes without any particular rhyme or reason. It can last for a few minutes to a few months, increasing with frequency as you get older.
Painkillers can seem like a reasonable option. So can sitting down and limiting your movement. But there is a lot more than you can do to tame active sciatica, and many of them will improve overall health. Here’s how to handle, or reduce the risk, of sciatic nerve flare-ups.
- Avoid sitting for long periods: Extended periods of sitting, either while working, watching television, or driving, can all put pressure on the sciatic nerves. Getting up, or stopping, to take a break can relieve pressure and loosen-up the area.
- Get more exercise: Increasing virtually any exercise modality that does not cause pain may help tame sciatica. Aerobic exercise like swimming, walking, cycling, or dancing; flexibility training like yoga, tai chi, or Pilates, or weight training can all help.
- Strengthen core muscles: Your core represents several muscle groups in your midsection, not just the abdominals. There are muscles in your lower back, sides, pelvis, and buttocks that all play an important role in supporting the spine. Stronger core muscles take pressure off the lower back and can reduce sciatica pain. Planks, bridges, and various movements in weight training, Pilates, yoga, and tai chi support core strength.
- Focus on posture: Slouching can also put added pressure on sciatic nerves. Less sitting, more activity, and a strong core can all help improve posture, as can paying attention to your form throughout the day. When sitting or standing, keep shoulders pulled back and down with your head up.
These natural tips to manage sciatica can help limit its impact on your life while contributing to better overall health. Give them a try before popping painkillers!