The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest single nerve in your body that goes from your lower back down to your foot. If it’s irritated, or pinched, you may suffer from sciatica, a type of severe pain that usually goes down one of your legs. Among other symptoms, you may experience a feeling of weakness, numbness, a burning sensation, or tingling in the affected leg and foot. If not treated properly, this condition can seriously affect the quality of your life by causing poor movement and balance.
Bright Side made a list of the most effective ways to treat sciatic nerve pain that will help you ease this condition without taking any medicine.
11. The cat-cow exercise
The initial position: standing on all fours on the floor with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.
What to do:
- Inhale and lift your head up to look at the ceiling while pushing your belly toward the floor.
- Exhale and lower your head to look at your hips while rounding your back toward the ceiling.
Repeat: 15-20 times
This exercise will help you improve your spine’s flexibility and align your hips properly by strengthening your core.
10. Hamstring stretching
The initial position: sitting on the floor with your right leg stretched out in front of you and your left leg bent at the knee while the sole of your left foot is placed against your right inner thigh.
What to do:
- Keeping your right knee straight, extend your arms toward your right foot and bend at the waist as far as possible.
- Hold for about 15-30 seconds and return to the initial position.
Repeat: 3 times for both legs
This stretch works directly with your hamstring muscles and may help you ease the pain and tightness in them caused by sciatica.
9. The bird-dog exercise
The initial position: standing on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.
What to do:
- Keeping your back and pelvis still and stable, extend your right arm forward and left leg back.
- Hold for a second, then return to the initial position.
- Repeat on the other side.
Repeat: 10-15 times
This exercise will help you maintain proper posture, take some pressure off your lower back, and strengthen your glutes.
8. The butterfly stretch
The initial position: seated upright with your knees bent so that the bottoms of your feet touch each other.
What to do:
- Place your palms where your knees bend and gently press them down toward the ground.
- As you press, bend forward at the hips so that your chest is closer to your legs.
- Hold for 10-20 seconds.
This pose will help you slowly open your hips and stretch out the muscles of your butt and the piriformis muscle.
7. A vinegar foot soak
About an hour before you go to bed, take a small bucket of warm water, add 500 ml of apple cider vinegar and a cup of salt to it and mix them well. Soak your feet in this bath for about 10-15 minutes, then dry them with a towel and make sure that they stay warm through the night. The next morning, don’t stand or walk on the ground barefoot.
If you repeat the procedure 3-4 times a week, you should experience a massive decrease in pain that will happen due to the anti-inflammatory properties of apple cider vinegar.
According to some studies, unlike most anti-inflammatory drugs, the use of acupuncture turns out to be an effective way of relieving lower back pain and treating cases of sciatica. This ancient Chinese practice is relatively safe and is rarely associated with serious adverse events, so it can be used without any risk.
5. Ice packs or heating pads
As a general rule, ice packs are used to reduce inflammation caused by a pinched nerve and also to numb the pain while the heat helps loosen the muscles around the nerve and relieve the pressure. Both ice and heat are usually applied for about 15-20 minutes and, if necessary, the procedure should be repeated every 2 hours.
Here are some pieces of advice you should follow when using ice or cold pads:
- Ice packs should be applied for the first 2 or 3 days after the occurrence of acute symptoms. After that, it’s better to use heating pads.
- Apply heat before any physical activity to warm up your muscles and to increase blood flow in the area.
- Use ice or a cold pack after an activity to cool down the inflammation.
- Apply heating pads whenever you’re going to leave a sitting position in order to help your muscles get ready for moving.
- Take warm baths before going to bed. It will loosen up your tight muscles and help you sleep better.
4. Trigger point massage
The sciatic nerve is situated underneath the piriformis muscle which sits beneath the muscles of your buttocks. When the piriformis gets tight, it pinches the sciatic nerve and causes tingling and numbness in your leg. To ease these feelings, you should apply pressure to the irritated areas, or trigger points, in the piriformis muscle, as well as in the muscles of your lower back.
3. Physical activity
The golden rule of sciatica prevention is to avoid sitting for many hours without moving. Types of activities such as watching TV or working at a desk may actually make things worse and increase the pain. So even if you’re not a big sports fan, try to alternate periods of sitting/lying with short walks. Taking a few steps a day will increase blood flow to the nerve and will reduce the inflammation around it.
2. Proper posture
While sitting, always support your back and keep your feet on the ground. For this purpose, it’s better to choose a seat with good lower back support, arm rests and a swivel base. You can also slightly elevate your legs by using a book or a small box to reduce the pressure on your spine from sitting for a long period of time.
If you stand for too long, place one foot on a stool from time to time. It will help one of your legs rest while the other one is working so that your chances of suffering from sciatica will decrease.
1. The right sleeping position
If you suffer from sciatic nerve pain, the best sleeping position for you is to lie flat on your back. To take the pressure off the nerve, it’s better to elevate your knees using a pillow or a rolled-up towel. This position will tilt your pelvis and will help you sleep more comfortably.
Side sleepers should also use a pillow — simply bend your top knee, pull it toward your head, and put a pillow under it in order to align the hips and prevent the occurrence of pain.
Do you know any other ways to treat sciatic nerve pain? Share your experience with us in the comments!
Illustrated by Yekaterina Ragozina for Bright Side