Sciatica is the name given to pain caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve. Anything that irritates this nerve can cause pain, ranging from mild to severe. Sciatica is usually caused by a compressed nerve in the lower spine.
The main symptom is a shooting pain anywhere along the sciatic nerve; from the lower back, through the buttock, and down the back of either leg.
Other common symptoms of sciatica include:
- numbness in the leg along the nerve
- tingling sensation (pins and needles) in the feet and toes
This pain can range in severity and may be aggravated by sitting for long periods.
Here are 5 tips that you may not have heard before, all of which may contribute to sciatic pain reduction:
1. Reduce inflammation through nutrition
A diet rich in whole grains, natural foods, fruits, vegetables, nuts, fatty fish, such as salmon, and soluble and insoluble fiber can be effective in reducing inflammation. Curcumin (turmeric), ginger, green tea, and black tea are also potent sources of anti-inflammatory substances that help build up immunity and improve overall health. Following this type of diet will help build the levels of anti-inflammatory substances in your body over time and may reduce the occurrence of sciatica in the long-term.
What to avoid while following an anti-inflammatory diet
When you choose to regularly consume anti-inflammatory foods, it is important to avoid or limit:
- Inflammation causing foods, such as sugars, refined carbohydrates, trans fats, and hydrogenated oils
- Smoking, which can lower the production of anti-inflammatory molecules and induce inflammation
It is advised to check with your doctor before making extensive dietary changes and to ensure that your diet does not interfere or interact with any current medications.
2. Build specific micronutrients
Supplements help build up micronutrients in your body, which may not be fully obtained through a regular diet. A few examples of important micronutrients include:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin B6
- Fish oil (Omega-3 fatty acids)
These micronutrients help suppress inflammatory mediators and reduce the overall inflammatory processes. Vitamin E, zinc, and selenium act as antioxidants in the body. The B group of vitamins help improve nerve health and reduce sciatica. You can also take curcumin (turmeric) supplements if you don’t consume turmeric as a part of your daily diet.
3. Release your natural pain killers with massage
Massages can help you feel relaxed, release endorphins (your body’s natural hormones that reduce the perception of pain), improve blood circulation, and soothe sore spinal muscles.
- A deep tissue massage can help restore the spine’s range of motion, improving its flexibility.
- Knots, trigger points, or tension in the muscles can be kneaded out with manual therapy—a special form of medical-massage.
- There are many forms of massage that can be beneficial, such as myofascial release and Shiatsu (a Japanese massage technique that utilizes finger and palm pressure and stretching techniques).
Sciatica pain from poor posture, muscle strain, or fatigued musculature in the lower spine may be relieved effectively through these massages.
4. Try mind-body techniques
You can use the power of your mind to lower your perception of sciatica pain. Mind-body techniques, which include deep breathing exercises, meditation, guided imagery, and cognitive behavioral therapy, can be helpful in relaxing your muscles and, to an extent, increasing your sense of control over the pain.
You may find that these techniques also help reduce anxiety and depression often associated with chronic pain.
5. Walk in a swimming pool
Water therapy exercises or even simply walking in waist-deep water can help improve nerve and muscle function in the lower body. The natural buoyancy, hydrostatic pressure, thermodynamics, hydrodynamic forces, and viscosity of water help regulate the functioning of nerves and muscles, letting you exercise with less pain.
If your sciatica pain gets worse and/or severely disrupts your daily life, check with your pain specialist about additional treatment options, which may include medications, manual manipulation, epidural steroid injections, and more