Sciatica is the generic name given for ANY irritation of the sciatic nerve resulting in symptoms anywhere along the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve IS the largest nerve, made up of 5 nerve roots from the low back and runs from the low back, through the buttocks and hip area, down the back of the upper leg, before it splits into two nerves behind the knee, and then continues into the foot. The symptoms of sciatica vary greatly, from a dull to sharp pains, from tingling to burning to numbness and everything in between. Being nerve related it can literally send electrical like jolts and shocks through the body. Overall, it can be very minor discomfort to excruciating and unbearable pain.
The question is with all the treatments out there, how do I know what to do?
Avoid aggravating the Sciatic Nerve further
Many people say stretching the muscles in the back of the affected leg will alleviate symptoms. Though I used to think that way, I now think this: IF something is irritated or tight, why would you pull it tighter to alleviate it? It seems like the same thing as rubbing irritating skin or picking at a scab, thinking it will enhance healing. To me, stretching something that is irritated will only irritate it further (whether that irritation is immediate or delayed, such as itching irritated skin feels good in the moment, but further irritates things later). My focus is to avoid doing anything that puts stress on the irritated nerve.
Stretch the Opposite Side of the Body
If you are avoiding stretching the bad leg, from above, stretching the non-involved (opposite) leg will do wonders to minimize symptoms. The body is incredible at adapting and having carry-over affects throughout the body. I have found that stretching the good leg (assuming sciatica is only on one side) causes the affected leg to relax improving movement and decreasing pain.
Avoid Painful Motions (as much as possible)
As much as possible, avoid positions or activities that are painful. As stated above, when your nerve is irritated, putting it in compromising positions or painful activities will only further aggravate it – you will pay at the time, or possibly later on…..SO, avoid painful activities as much as possible.
Seek Help as Quick as Possible
Studies are showing, seeking help within the first 14 days from a good physical therapist can save an average of nearly $2500 over duration of the issue. Think the sooner the better IF you start to feel sciatica issues coming on. Also, the longer the issue is there, the longer it typically takes to calm down.
As Always – Stay Hydrated
Still holds true that you have to stay hydrated for your body to function optimally. Increased water helps flush inflammation, keeps your joints lubricated and your muscles functioning optimally. SO, please drink enough water. Very easy to control this part of the equation….