Information and Tips for Relief of Sciatica

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This helpful button is by Nicole on Etsy.

WHAT IS SCIATICA?
Sciatica is a general term used to explain a set of symptoms, not a medical condition on its own.

Sciatica refers to pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling in the leg.
The pain most often occurs on one side. The pain or numbness may also be felt on the back of the calf or on the sole of the foot.
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Sciatica pain may get worse:
After standing or sitting
At night
When sneezing, coughing, laughing, or bending backwards.
Pain can be severe in prolonged exposure to cold weather.
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Caused by compression or irritation of one or more nerve roots that form the sciatic nerve. This compression irritates the nerve and causes swelling and pain along the sciatic nerve.

*Herniated discs are the most common cause of sciatica. (1 in 50 people will experience a hernia in their lifetime!)

**People who sit for prolonged periods or have a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to develop sciatica than active people are.

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WHAT IS THE SCIATIC NERVE?
5 spinal nerve roots exit the lumbar and sacral spine (low back) and combine to form one ginormous sciatic nerve which goes from your low back, down the back of each of your legs to your feet and toes (longest and largest nerve in body)
*sciatic nerve is as large as the width of your thumb (that’s huge for a nerve!)

This nerve controls the muscles of the back of the knee and lower leg and provides sensation to the back of the thigh, part of the lower leg, and the sole of the foot.

Sciatic pain can be experienced anywhere along this nerve route, from the low back, the buttock, the back of the thigh, the calf, the foot or the toes.

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PREVENTING FUTURE FLARE-UPS:
Minimize everyday stress on the lower back, including maintaining good posture, making sure the lower back is supported while sitting, and avoiding sitting or standing for long periods of time.

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WHAT TO DO TO EASE PAIN:
Some self-care treatments that may be helpful include:
Cold packs. Initially, you may get relief from a cold pack placed on the painful area for up 20 minutes several times a day. Use an ice pack or a package of frozen peas wrapped in a clean towel.
Hot packs. After two to three days, apply heat to the areas that hurt. Use hot packs, a heat lamp or a heating pad on the lowest setting. If you continue to have pain, try alternating warm and cold packs.

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Although resting for a day or so may provide some relief, prolonged inactivity will make your signs and symptoms worse.

Without exercise and movement, the back muscles and spinal structures become less able to support the back. The weakening can lead to back injury and strain, which causes additional pain.

Active exercise is also important for the health of the spinal discs. Movement helps exchange nutrients and fluids within the discs to keep them healthy and prevent pressure on the sciatic nerve.

Walking is an excellent form of exercise for the low back because it is relatively low impact but can provide all the benefits of an aerobic workout.

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STRETCHING AND STRENGTHENING:
(Doing the wrong type of exercise can worsen the sciatic pain, so it is important to get an accurate diagnosis prior to starting a program of sciatica exercises.)

Stretching:
Helps you recover more quickly from a flare up of sciatica and makes you less likely to experience future episodes of pain.

Loosens the muscles in the affected region and allows room for the release of pressure on the nerve.

*Avoid jerking, bouncing or twisting during the stretch and try to hold the stretch at least 30 seconds.

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Parts of the body to focus on:
*HAMSTRINGS. Overly tight hamstrings increase the stress on the low back and often aggravate or even cause some of the conditions that result in sciatica.

*Stretching the piriformis muscle is almost always necessary to relieve the pain along the sciatic nerve

*Performing range of motion exercises directed at the SI joint can often restore normal movement and alleviate the irritation of the sciatic nerve.

*core strengthening exercises
(low back and lower abdominal muscles)
This will condition the muscles in the core to easily support the back in a way that is healthy and relieves added pressure to the nerve.

*hip extensor muscles

Also:
.improve flexibility of your spine.
.Work on posture

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(*avoid long, straight-leg forward folds
Follow all forward flexed positions immediately with an extension exercise counter pose.)

Specific poses to help with sciatica:
For many patients, getting the pain to move up from the leg to the low back is accomplished by stretching the muscles of the back ((backwards bending))
Hold each pose lightly for 30 seconds.
* (Flow) up dog or sphinx to down dog
Pigeon pose
*figure 4 stretch is great (thread the needle)
Bridge pose
Knees to chest.
Child’s pose, arms in front
**Pelvic tilting

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Melissa West (my favorite yogi) put together a wonderful video for sciatica based on my research. She also incorporated some of her own research on emotional aspects of sciatica.

You can view the video at http://www.melissawest.com/shop/yoga-for-sciatica/.
It’s available for purchase for only $15.
And you can use the video every day to help relieve your symptoms.
(We are super stoked about it!)

((PS: It’s also a wonderful core strengthening video!))

I hope this is helpful for you. If you have any suggestions or tips for dealing with sciatica please let me know in the comments!
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Joy Boardman

Massage Therapist and Collage Art Therapist

Planet Joy: Otherworldly Massages for Women, Planet-Friendly Collages for Everyone

Find me here:

[PlanetJoy’s Blog]

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