Consider a few simple suggestions to help reduce sciatica and low back pain or thwart its recurrence.
For many people, sciatica responds well to self-care measures. You’ll heal more quickly if you continue with your usual activities, but avoid what may have triggered the pain in the first place. Although resting for a day or so may provide some relief, prolonged bed rest isn’t a good idea. In the long run, inactivity will make your signs and symptoms worse.
Regular exercise helps to build and preserve a strong muscular core; specifically, target the muscles in the abdomen and low back. A strong core is essential for good posture and spinal alignment. Proper posture relieves pressure on the low back that contributes to sciatica.
Exercise prompts your body to release endorphins — chemicals that prevent pain signals from reaching your brain.
Early in the course of sciatica, water exercise or other low-impact exercise such as a stationary bicycle will help you stay active without worsening your symptoms. Later, as you improve and the pain lessens, combining aerobic activity with strength training and core stability exercises that improve the strength of your back muscles can help limit the effects of age-related degenerative changes in your back. Start out slowly and progress to at least 30 minutes most days. To prevent injury, consider learning proper techniques from a fitness specialist.
- Eat healthy foods (a well-balanced, low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables).
- Drink plenty of water.
- Stop smoking, avoid excessive use of alcohol.
- Get plenty of rest.
- To reduce the risk of lumbar disc herniation that can lead to sciatica, avoid movements that involve extreme body rotation.
- Try to keep body weight close to ideal.
- Lifting and carrying things that are heavy, bulky or awkward in shape can contribute to sciatica. Remember to hold the item close to the body, lift with the back straight using the strong leg muscles.
- Feel a big sneeze or a cough coming on? – try to brace yourself first.
- Select a mattress and box spring that offers good support. Slip a pillow under the knees to help relieve low back pressure. People who prefer to sleep on their side should place a pillow between their knees to help reduce hip and low back pain.
Maintain proper posture when you sit. A good chair should comfortably support your hips, and the seat shouldn’t press on the back of your thighs or knees. If the chair doesn’t support the natural curve in your lower spine, place a rolled towel or pillow behind your back.
- Choose seating that supports the spine’s natural curve and allows the feet to rest flat on the floor. Avoid sitting for prolonged periods of time. Make it a point to get up and walk around often.
- Do not sit cross-legged. This places pressure on the sciatic nerve.
- Avoid sitting on a wallet kept in the hip pocket.
- When working at a computer, adjust your chair so that your feet are flat on the floor and your arms rest on your desk or the chair’s arms, with your elbows bent at a right angle. Take frequent breaks, even if it’s just to walk around your office.
- When you drive, adjust your seat to keep your knees and hips level, and move the seat forward to avoid overreaching for the pedals.
Use good body mechanics. Being conscious of how you stand, lift heavy objects and even how you sleep can go a long way toward keeping your back healthy. That’s because poor posture stresses your back, leading to fatigue and stress on joints and nerves.
- If you stand for long periods, rest one foot on a stool or small box from time to time.
- While you stand, hold reading material at eye level instead of bending forward.
- Before you lift something heavy, decide where you’ll place it and how you’ll get there.
- Bend at your knees, not your back, so that your legs do the lifting.
- Carry objects close to your body at about waist level.
- If possible, set the object down on a surface between shoulder and knee height to avoid lifting objects over your head or bending over too far.
- Don’t twist at your waist. Instead, turn by pivoting your feet.
- Be careful moving heavy things when you’re tired — fatigue can cause you to move more awkwardly.
- Heavy loads pose the greatest risk, so know your limitations. Don’t attempt to lift something you feel is beyond your ability.
- For the best sleep posture, choose a mattress that feels comfortable to you.
- Use pillows for support, but don’t use one that forces your neck up at a severe angle.
Thank you to Mayo Clinic Staff and Spine Universe for much of the material contained herein.
But what if you don’t get better after these self-care strategies? It’s time to see a professional. Be aware that the philosophy of care for that professional will dictate the methods they use. Do you want drugs to cover the pain? See an MD. Or, do you want to get to the root of the problem? See a chiropractor! A DC (Doctor of Chiropractic) is trained and licensed to diagnose and treat sciatica and many other types of pain from injuries to the muscles, joints, discs, and nerves. If you are ready, we are ready to help you get out of pain and get on with the joy of life! Call us today.
Levin and Chellen Chiropractic: 4144 County Road 101, Minnetonka, MN 55345
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