Sciatica: What a Pain in the *(%$!

Let’s talk about the dreaded SCIATICA. There are several things you can do to manage mild sciatica on your own at home.

Sciatica is a common condition that affects up to 40% of people during their lifetime. It causes pain radiating along the path of the sciatic nerve, which runs from the buttocks down each leg. In most cases, sciatica affects only one side of the body and can range from mild discomfort to severe pain.

Prevent sciatica and “Stay Square.” Of course, an ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure. One of the most important ways to prevent sciatica is to avoid it in the first place. If you already have sciatica, the following approaches can help speed your healing.

· Avoid combining motions such as twisting and bending at the same time, what I like to call “staying square.” When we twist and bend at the same time, we torque the spine and sacrum. If we spend a lot of time like this, the sacrum can get stuck in a position that places pressure on the sciatic nerve. The result is often sciatic symptoms, including pain in the buttocks and thigh. When bending to pick something off the floor, face it and bend or squat down to get it without twisting.

· Keep your legs aligned throughout the day and when sleeping. When standing, avoid leaning on one leg. Instead, place your feet hip distance apart, and bend your knees slightly. This will keep your spine & sacrum aligned. When lying in bed, keep both legs folded up or extended out to avoid creating any type of twist in your spine and sacrum. Sleeping with a pillow between your knees helps keep your spine even straighter when on your side in bed.

· Back up to sit in a vehicle, then keep your legs together and twist your whole body to get to the desired position. Do the reverse when getting out of a vehicle.

· Don’t cross your legs! This is a big one! We learn to cross our legs from a very young age. Crossing our legs torques our spine & sacrum. This creates the perfect condition for sciatica to develop. If you have a hard time breaking this habit, cross your feet at the ankles instead.

Managing sciatica involves both self-care measures and sometimes professional treatment.

Maintaining good posture and regular exercise (such as walking) are cornerstones to healing sciatica. In addition, heat or cold on the low back may give you some relief.

Over-the-counter pain relievers can also help manage symptoms. One is not better than the next. Use whatever works for you.

Reclined Butterfly Pose / Frog Legs Position. This position can be a lifesaver when your sciatica is acting up. It softens the ligaments and muscles around the sacrum which hold it in the painful position. The butterfly/frog legs pose removes pressure on the sciatic nerve and relieves pain.

To get into Reclined Butterfly/Frog Legs, lie on your back on the floor or a firm surface. Bend your knees up and put the soles of your feet together. Let your knees flop out and relax.

If there is too much strain on your back or knees, you can tuck pillows under your knees for added support. Lie in this position for 3-5 minutes, at least once and up to 3 times every day.

Still in pain? You might need professional help.

Your primary care doctor or orthopedic surgeon might recommend physical therapy or a visit to a chiropractor. These can be very helpful approaches for some, but not for everyone.

Many people feel better with Osteopathic treatment, even when physical therapy or chiropractic treatment hasn’t helped.

Osteopathic treatment is just what the doctor ordered if you need help managing sciatica. Osteopathic treatment involves gentle pressure to realign bones, muscles and connective tissue (fascia). The principles of osteopathy are based on the body’s ability to heal itself, and treatments are designed to support and enhance this natural process.

When treating sciatica, an osteopathic physician will perform a complete exam to determine the root cause of your pain. This includes evaluating your posture, mobility, spinal alignment, and complete medical history. The osteopathic physician will then develop a personal treatment plan for you. This plan will take into account your activity level and goals.

Osteopathic treatment. One common finding in sciatica is a twist in the pelvic bones and sacrum. The osteopathic physician moves these bones back to proper position using gentle techniques. This improves alignment and reduces pressure on the sciatic nerve. Your physician may recommend changes in your lifestyle and simple exercises. These are meant to help you recover more quickly and avoid reinjuring yourself.

It is possible to heal from sciatica!

With self-care, gentle exercise and professional treatment, most people with sciatica can feel better and stay better.