Let’s face it; back pain is a very bothersome and painful problem. It can interrupt your sleep, your work, and even day-to-day functions suddenly become pain-filled excursions.
While the pain of sciatica is quite common, with approximately 4 out of every 10 Americans experiencing this dreadful pain at least once in their lifetime, there is nothing commonplace about this pain when it happens to you or someone you care about.
You will find a great many self-help articles about how to find relief from the pain of sciatica, but you might be making your pain worse by doing this 1 everyday thing.
Let’s talk about what makes sciatica worse and what you can do to prevent sciatica from returning.
Sciatica Isn’t a Disease
Back pain and sciatica are different pain monsters, although they are related to one another.
Low back pain is often caused by muscle strain or an injury to the muscles supporting the spine. Sciatica pain is often caused by bulging or herniated discs in the spine.
The sciatic nerve is the longest one in the body, starting from your lower spine, down your buttock, the back of the thigh, the calf, and across the bottom of the foot.
When discs in the spine bulge or herniate, they irritate the nerve. You might feel pain in the hip, buttock, or it is often felt as shooting pain down the hip and ending somewhere in the back of the thigh or you might feel it down the calf and on the bottom of your foot.
Sciatica isn’t really a disease or a health problem, it’s a symptom of another problem in the back. Similar to the way you can get a headache when you need reading glasses but don’t wear them. The problem isn’t really with your head, it’s your eyes that are straining the muscles in your head, causing you pain.
The issue isn’t always bulging discs, but it is often related to some type of pressure in this area which is causing irritation and inflammation in the tissue surrounding this nerve.
The #1 Thing That Makes Sciatica Worse.
The one thing that will make your sciatica worse is sitting.
For some it hurts to stand, so they sit, thinking that this is taking pressure off the nerve, but it is actually putting pressure on the area where the nerve starts.
Too much sitting triggers or worsens the pain from sciatica. You may not feel it while you are sitting down, but once you stand up or take a step away from the chair, you will really feel it!
If you must sit for your job, try using an adjustable desk that allows you to work standing up. If you work from home, you might want to invest in a treadmill desk.
Take frequent breaks and walk around the office or do a bit of stretching. If you use the phone, try to talk, and pace or stand up while you talk.
Set a timer if you must and make it a point to get up and walk or stretch for 5 minutes every 30 minutes.
Other Triggers Causing Sciatica Pain
There is a wide range of issues that can irritate the sciatic nerve, including:
- Wearing very tight, restrictive pants, shorts, or skirts
- Being overweight
- A lack of physical activity
- High heel shoes that are worn frequently
- Putting heavy or bulky items in the back pockets of pants
- Flip flops, shoes with no support, or uncomfortable shoes
Not all the above will cause everyone to experience worse sciatica pain since everyone is different. Try changing some of the habits above and see which ones work best for you.
Why is My Sciatica Pain Worse at Night?
Like sitting, many people believe that if they lie down and get a good night’s rest, their sciatica pain will be tremendously reduced by morning.
Unfortunately, also like sitting, some people are surprised and angry that they wake up in the middle of the night with a throbbing, shooting pain down the back of their leg.
Sciatica seems worse at night due to your sleeping position. Many people end up lying in a fetal or curled-up position on their side. This causes the vertebrae in the spine to pinch or put more pressure on the sciatic nerve.
If you tend to sleep on your side, chances are that your sleeping position is what is causing your pain.
You can place an ergonomic pillow between the knees, or you can pull your top knee up, towards the chest, and push the bottom leg nearly straight. This will shift your hips and straighten the spine, preventing pressure on the nerve.
If you can find a way to sleep on your back most of the night, this would be the best way to sleep until your sciatic nerve is better.
When you wake up in the morning, you can start things off on the right foot by doing a few simple stretches before you get out of bed. Lie on your back and gently pull one knee up towards the chest while the other leg stays fully extended. Repeat with the other leg.
You can also pull both knees to your chest and hold this position for a count of 15. This gentle stretch will also help to prevent or at least minimize sciatica pain when you get up from the bed.
Why is My Sciatica Pain Not Going Away?
Depending on what the source of the pain is, herniated disc, for example, the cause of the pain must heal before the nerve can stop responding to irritation.
Most back injuries take 4-6 weeks or longer to heal. As the back heals and inflammation is reduced, the nerve will also begin to send out fewer or less intense pain signals.
This also explains why some patients say that sciatica pain comes and goes. The root cause will heal, stopping the pain, but if the area is reinjured, or if an injury occurs in an area that will also affect the sciatic nerve, the pain will return.
This is why it is vital to discover the source (herniated disc, spinal stenosis, etc.) of the pain so that it can be treated.
Can a Chiropractor Help Stop Sciatica Pain?
Generally speaking, yes, they can.
In most cases, the root cause of your sciatica lies in the spine. Whether it’s a herniated disc, a pinched nerve, or another problem, a chiropractor can determine the source of the pain and treat the condition.
Chiropractors are specialists in all things related to the spine, joints, and connective tissue. Spinal manipulations restore the proper alignment of the vertebrae in the spine, removing any restrictions so that the body can heal itself naturally and quickly.
Spinal adjustments don’t hurt, and they might even offer some immediate pain relief by releasing pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Depending on the issue, your chiropractor might also perform cold laser therapy, chiropractic massage, ultrasound, or involve the use of a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) unit to manage pain and promote healing.
Some conditions and disorders can cause sciatica that is outside the scope of chiropractic care. If this is the case, your chiropractor will refer you to the appropriate specialist for further treatment.
Myths and Facts Regarding Sciatica
- All Leg Pain is Sciatica- This is a myth. Leg pain, even if it involves the back of the thigh, can be
- caused by muscle strain, vascular problems, neuropathy, or it might stem from a different nerve being irritated or compressed, such as the femoral nerve.
- Sciatica Can’t Be Cured- This is, generally speaking, not true. While some conditions can’t be cured (spinal stenosis for example) the pain of sciatica can be managed. Other issues, such as a herniated disc, can be healed, which will “cure” the pain of sciatica.
- Sciatica is caused by a Single Event- In most cases, this is also not true. If a bulging or herniated disc is the root cause, the disc usually puts out plenty of signs beforehand. A single event, such as lifting a heavy suitcase, may be the proverbial case of the last straw, but rarely does something like helping a friend move furniture cause a healthy disc to rupture or bulge without warning.
- Chiropractors Can Help Stop Sciatica Pain- This is absolutely true. In nearly all cases, comprehensive chiropractic care can help stop sciatica pain and speed healing.
- A Two or Four Week Stay in Bed will Stop Sciatica- Unfortunately, this is not true and in fact, a long stay in bed will only make the problem worse. Studies show that there is no benefit to staying in bed. You will only succeed in weakening the muscles that support the spine and the leg.
While sciatica cannot be prevented, you can greatly reduce your risk of sciatica by staying active, engaging in regular exercise, taking frequent breaks from sitting, and maintaining strong core muscles.
If you are suffering from sciatica or low back pain, don’t put your life on hold for weeks! Call the professionals at Better Health Chiropractic and Physical Rehab. We have decades of experience treating back pain and sciatica.
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Stop living with the pain of sciatica and start living a full, pain-free life once more! You have nothing to lose but the pain.