Top 5 tips for managing sciatica
Last updated on March 21, 2023
Sciatica or sciatic nerve pain is a term used to describe pain that originates in your lower back and travels down one or both legs, past your knee towards your foot. This is caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve that originates in your lumbar spine (lower back). Sciatica is common, as many as 40% of people will experience sciatica during their lifetime and it is generally more common as we get older. Although common, the good news is that we can do a lot to cope with sciatica and help prevent it from flaring up.
Common causes of sciatica:
- Lumbar disc protrusion or disc bulge. This occurs when one or more of the discs (shock absorbers that sit between your spinal bones) become inflamed and therefore puts pressure on the nerve exiting from your spine.
- Degeneration in the lumbar spine or discs.
- Spondylolisthesis. This is where one vertebral body slips forward on another, causing irritation to the nerves exiting your spine.
- Tightness of the piriformis muscle. This is a muscle that goes from your sacrum (tail bone) to part of your femur (thigh bone). The sciatic nerve travels underneath the piriformis muscle. Therefore tightness in the piriformis muscle puts extra pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Top 5 tips for coping with sciatica:
- Go see a chiropractor! Chiropractors are trained in assessing, diagnosing and knowing the best possible treatment plan for sciatica. Chiropractic care can be effective in treating and managing sciatica. Utilising manual and low force adjustments, rehabilitation and lifestyle advice.
- Strengthen your core Your core muscles play a key role in maintaining your spinal health. Most people assume that your core muscles are only your abdominals, however they are much more than that. Your core also includes the muscles on the side of your stomach, back and buttocks. Strengthening all of these muscles helps to support your spine.
- Avoid sitting for long periods of time Prolonged periods of sitting puts extra pressure on the discs in your low back. Sitting for 30 minutes at a time or more can also switch off your core muscles. If you work a desk job, try standing up every 30 minutes to help mitigate the effects of prolonged sitting.
- Do stretches. Stretching tight muscles such as your piriformis and hip flexors can help restore normal biomechanics around the sciatic nerve and reduce symptoms.
- Practice good posture. Mum was right, poor posture isn’t good for you! Poor posture causes added stress on your spine and muscles which lead to sciatica. Practice lifting your chest, rolling your shoulders back and tucking your chin every time you walk through a doorway to engrain new posture habits.
Chiropractic therapy can help alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with sciatica, and chiropractors can also provide guidance on exercises and lifestyle modifications to prevent future episodes of sciatica.