How do you know when you have sciatic nerve pain!
If you feel pain from your lower back to behind the thighs spreading down below your knees, you might be suffering from sciatica. Sciatica can be understood as the pain and sometimes numbness as well as weakness which spreads along the sciatic nerve.
Now what is this sciatic nerve? Let’s understand it to know sciatica pain better.
What is Sciatic Nerve?
Sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body. It runs from both the sides of your lower spine through deep in your rear and back of the thigh. It then goes down to the foot and thus connects your spinal cord with your leg and foot muscles.
Sciatic nerve actually comprise of five nerves. These five nerves form a group on the front surface of piriformis muscle which lies in the rear. These five nerves then become one large nerve called sciatic nerve.
Sciatic nerve works to supply sensation and strength to your leg. It also has a role in the reflexes of the leg. When sciatic nerve gets damaged, you can face weakness of muscles as well as numbness or tingling in the leg, ankle, foot, and sometimes toes too.
Sciatic Notch and Piriformis Muscle Syndrome
When talking about sciatic nerve, it is apt to mention the sciatic notch and piriformis muscle too. There are, in fact, two sciatic notch, greater sciatic notch and lesser sciatic notch. The greater sciatic notch is the large, deep notch situated on the posterior margin of the ischium which forms the lower and back part of the hip bone. This greater sciatic notch gives passage to the piriformis muscle and many other vessels, nerves and muscles on their course from the pelvis to the gluteal region. Of these, piriformis muscle is of great importance when trying to understand sciatic nerve pain.
The piriformis muscle is situated deep in the hip and it runs in close proximity to the sciatic nerve. When this piriformis muscle gets tight or swollen, it leads to irritation of the sciatic nerve, which in turn leads to a pain resembling to sciatica pain, tingling and numbness. This is sometimes called Piriformis Syndrome. To relieve such sciatica-like pain, piriformis muscle stretches need to be done. We will discuss such Piriformis stretches when we learn about sciatic nerve stretches to relieve sciatic nerve pain.
Now that we know what sciatic nerve is, let’s know more about sciatica and its causes, symptoms and remedies.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica can be defined as the pain in your lower extremity caused by a pinched sciatic nerve in the lower back. It is that pain which affects your back, hip, and outer side of your leg from the buttock down to your foot. It is usually felt in one leg and the pain is quite intolerable sometimes.
What are the Causes of Sciatica Pain?
Sciatica pain is caused due to irritation of the roots of the lower lumbar and lumbosacral spine. Usually when the sciatic nerve becomes pinched it gives rise to sciatica pain. Below are the causes for such pinched sciatic nerve.
Other minor causes of sciatica may include being overweight, not exercising, wearing high heels, sleeping on a very soft mattress etc. In fact, these are not the direct causes of sciatica pain but may worsen the condition of sciatica lower back pain.
Sciatic Nerve Pain Symptoms
Usually, only one side of the body is affected by the sciatic nerve pain. However, this pain essentially radiates from the lower spine to the buttock and down the back of the leg. The common symptoms of sciatica pain are as below.
If it is a mild pain, it will go away in some time. However, if the pain lasts for more than a week or becomes severe getting worse day by day, then you should consider seeing your doctor. Severe symptoms of sciatica also include sudden, severe pain in your low back or leg along with numbness or muscle weakness there. If so, consult your physician. If you face trouble in controlling your bowels or bladder, you should immediately seek medical attention.
What Treatment is Given for Sciatica by Doctor?
Initially, doctors prescribe medicines to suppress your pain in the sciatic nerve and the affected areas. Therefore, you can expect to get anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, narcotics and even tricyclic antidepressants and anti-seizure drugs.
Sometimes, sciatic nerve block is also done for diagnosis and treatment of your sciatic nerve pain. For this, a mixture of a local anesthetic and steroid is injected. After the injection is administered, you may feel as if your pain has reduced a lot. This is due to the local anesthetic. Once the effect of this anesthetic wears off, you may feel increased pain for a few days. It is after these few days that your condition begins to improve.
After the initial treatment for pain, your doctor may prescribe a rehabilitation program which may include exercises to correct your posture and also to strengthen your muscles.
Surgery is done in rare cases of sciatic nerve pain. Surgery is usually done only when the pinched sciatic nerve leads to significant weakness, bowel or bladder incontinence. It may also be done when all the other treatments fail to contain your pain and it worsens continuously. Surgeons remove the bone spur or the portion of herniated disk that might be pressing on the pinched sciatic nerve.
Remedies to Get Rid of Sciatic Nerve Pain
Acupuncture and exercises can give you considerable relief from sciatic nerve pain.
Sciatic Nerve Acupuncture
When you decide to do acupuncture for sciatic nerve pain, you should always go to an expert because doing it yourself may lead to further complications. When you go to an acupuncture expert, he will insert needles into your skin at specific points. Acupuncture helps reprogram the muscles to stay relaxed. It actually makes your body capable of healing itself. However, it is a specialized subject and should be get done by a licensed acupuncturist. What you can do to help yourself is to perform acupressure at the points where it is most useful to relieve sciatica pain.
How to do Acupressure for Sciatic Pain Relief
Sciatic nerve relief is what you want when you experience the extreme pain due to sciatica. Acupressure can give you this relief. Acupressure can be understood as an alternative medicine technique just like acupuncture. The difference is just in the means of applying pressure on the points over your body. While acupuncture uses needles, acupressure uses physical pressure over the body points for clearing the blockages that might be causing pain and other discomforts in your body. Pressure can be applied by hands, elbow, or other devices. For example, the acupressure technique for sciatic nerve relief that you are going to read below can be done with your fists or with the help of a tennis ball.
Sciatic Nerve Pain Exercises
Exercises are a must to keep your back muscles and spine strong enough to support your back. When you don’t exercise or move your body enough, the muscles get weakened. This weakening of muscles leads to back injury and strain, which then causes pain. Exercising also keeps your spinal discs healthy. If you don’t move them enough, they will not be able to circulate fluids as well as nutrients that help them stay healthy and prevent pressure on the sciatic nerve.
The sciatic pain exercises that are mentioned here strengthen your abdominal and back muscles so that you are able to get good support for your back and relieve back pain due to sciatic nerve. These can be called strengthening exercises for sciatic pain. You should also do some stretching exercises to release your tight muscles and make them flexible. You will also know certain sciatic nerve stretches in this article to help yourself get relieved from sciatic pain. However, always do exercises after consulting your doctor. He may also suggest you some specific sciatic nerve exercises based on the diagnosis of your condition.
General Guidelines for Sciatic Nerve Exercises
Exercises to Strengthen Abdominal Muscles
1. Pelvic Tilt
2. Curl your Trunk
3. Lift your Legs under Water
4. Sit-ups with Exercise Balls
Sciatic Nerve Stretches to Strengthen Back Muscles
As you now know, the sciatic nerve runs from your back of the pelvis, through your buttocks, down to both legs and feet. These sciatic nerve stretches will help mobilize your sciatic nerve and will also increase the flexibility of your lower back. Initially, remain gentle to yourself and move only as far as you can, without feeling pain. Gradually you will be able to stretch more with practice. Do these stretches at least once a day.
1. Knee to Chest Leg Stretch
2. Stretch to Mobilize Sciatic Nerve and Hamstrings
3. Back Stretch
4. Hamstring Stretch
5. Gluteal Stretch for Buttocks
6. Piriformis Muscle Stretch to relieve Sciatic Pain
When you do these exercises and stretches regularly on a daily basis, you will not only relieve but also prevent sciatic nerve pain.