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Understanding Sciatica and Natural Ways to Relieve the Pain

Running from your lower back, buttocks, and legs down to the knees, the sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body and the widest one too. When this nerve becomes compressed, it can cause severe pain that is different from other types of common back pain. In this article, we’re looking at what sciatica is and natural ways to ease the pain and discomfort.

Photo credit: Injurymap via Flickr  (see below)

What Is Sciatica?

Sciatica is not considered to be a distinct medical condition, but rather a symptom of something that has gone wrong with the body’s sciatic nerve. When this nerve becomes pinched for whatever reason, you may feel pain, numbness, and tingling in the legs. It is often described as a shooting pain that occurs down the back of a leg.

What Causes Sciatica?

One common cause of sciatica is a herniated disk, but other medical issues can lead to this painful condition as well. For example, it can be caused by lumbar spinal stenosis, an infection, a spine injury, or a spine tumor. But in many instances, the actual cause of a person’s sciatica remains unknown. People who regularly lift heavy loads for work are more prone to sciatica, as well as people who live a sedentary lifestyle with long periods of sitting throughout the day.

Symptoms of Sciatica

Sciatica is very common, and many people will experience varying degrees of this pain during their lifetimes. Individuals in their 40s and 50s are most likely to experience this type of pain.

The pain typically involves a shooting sensation in the lower back, buttocks, and the backsides of one or both legs. You may also experience leg numbness, tingling in the feet and toes, and worsening of these conditions after sitting for a long time. A doctor typically makes a sciatica diagnosis after a basic physical exam and possibly x-rays or an MRI to evaluate questionable symptoms.

Natural Treatments for Sciatica

Exercise and stretching are often the best, easiest, and most affordable methods for treating sciatica pain. Yoga is an excellent exercise for sciatica, especially poses that target the back and hamstrings of the legs. Reclining pigeon pose and forward pigeon pose are recommended yoga exercises to try if you experience sciatica pain. Seated spinal stretches and standing hamstring stretches are also ideal for lengthening and strengthening the parts of the body that become stiff and painful from sciatica.

Photo credit: Jillian via Flickr

Hot and cold compression packs can be helpful for sciatica sufferers with acute pain strikes. Also, chiropractor spinal adjustments, massage therapy, and acupuncture can be beneficial. For serious symptoms of sciatica, a physician may recommend physical therapy, chronic pain management therapy, painkiller medications, or surgical options to widen the spinal cord or remove a herniated disk.

Preventing Sciatic Nerve Pain

Fortunately, lifestyle changes can often prevent sciatica from forming or becoming worse. Practicing proper posture, lifting objects in a safe way, and exercising regularly go a long way in keeping the spine and nerves healthy and functioning well. Since bodily inflammation can make sciatica pain worse, it is also recommended to eat a diet with lots of anti-inflammatory foods, such as fish, broccoli, blueberries, and nuts.

 

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