Treating Sciatica Pain at Home
Are you looking for ways to treat sciatica pain at home? If you have shooting pain in your butt, or down your leg, you may be dealing with sciatica and this post might provide the relief you are so desperately seeking.
I would like to discuss my back pain journey and ways that I have found relief from sciatica. Please keep reading and see if these methods will work for you.
First, I want to take a minute to define sciatica pain. Sciatica is not a diagnosis, but a symptom of another problem, and refers to pain that travels along the sciatic nerve. When the sciatic nerve is compressed or pinched (for example a herniated disc in the lower spine), this will cause pain along the path where the nerve travels.
Depending on where the nerve is pinched (at which vertebra level in your spine) will determine where you feel the pain. For instance, I will have pain that radiates all the way down to my right toes, this is an indication the nerve is compressed in the L5 region of the lower spine.
I have dealt with sciatica pain a lot in my life and I have chronic pain. If I lift something with an awkward motion or pick up something heavy, sometimes I will get a twinge of pain down my leg.
I have been dealing with this for years, and have found some of my limitations, not all, but probably most of my limitations. I have also found some very helpful ways to manage my sciatica pain.
The following are treatment methods that I use to keep my pain at bay. Some of these options require equipment and some do not.
I would encourage you to first work with your doctor or other healthcare providers (chiropractor for example) before you begin these treatment options. As I have said, these have worked for me, but everyone’s body is different. You may have a disc problem at a different level than I do, for instance.
Ways to treat sciatica pain at home
The piriformis muscle sits right on top of the sciatic nerve. This is a muscle located deep in the butt, in the area of the upper and outer hip. The sciatic nerve runs under and through the piriformis as it makes its way down your leg. If the piriformis is inflamed, it can cause irritation to the sciatic nerve, which will cause sciatica-like symptoms, meaning pain along the path of the nerve. This is known as piriformis syndrome.
You will need to have a proper diagnosis to determine if you have piriformis syndrome, or true sciatica, which originates in the spine. True sciatica is technically called lumbar radiculopathy. If you have piriformis syndrome, you could experience the same symptoms as sciatica.
You will need a proper diagnosis, because if you are using a foam roller to work on the piriformis, but the actual cause of the pain is due to a spinal issue, you are not treating the cause of the pain.
Both conditions will elicit similar symptoms but are different animals altogether.
- Why this works – One cause of Piriformis syndrome is muscle tightness. The purpose of foam rolling is to loosen up and relax the piriformis muscle.
Yoga has worked really well for me. I have been practicing yoga regularly as of late. Yoga is a gentle and low impact way to work out many back problems. I have included a yoga video designed specifically for sciatica.
This video is one of many “Yoga with Adriene” videos that I use frequently. There are others available online as well, but I have really had good luck with this series. Adriene is awesome! She walks you through the poses carefully and explains what the pose is doing. Adriene has tons of other videos designed for back problems as well; it is worth a search on YouTube.
In this video, Adriene works a lot on the piriformis and hamstrings, two muscles that are known to be problematic with sciatica.
- Why this works – Practicing yoga can help to align and lengthen your lower back, as well as help, strengthen core muscles. I love the relaxing gentle nature and it feels good to me.
Proper stretching in the right areas can really provide some great relief from sciatica and help in the healing process. Take a look at these stretching exercises and see how they work for you.
Reclining pigeon pose
The reclined pigeon pose is covered in the video, but it is worth touching on again since it is a good stretch. Lying flat on your back, bend your right knee and bring that knee toward your chest. Then bend the left leg. Bend your left leg at about a 90-degree angle. Now cross the right ankle onto the left leg that is bent. Bring the left ankle just below the right knee. Hold here for about 30 seconds. You should feel this in the outer hip area. Repeat on the other side.
Standing or sitting hamstring stretch
Depending on how tight your hamstrings are, you can lift one leg onto a chair with your heel resting on the chair. Slowly and gently, bend at the waist toward your toes and keep your back flat. I do this stretch with my toes pointed out; this puts less stress on my lower back. For starters, hold for 10, 20, 30 seconds, whatever feels good. You can hold longer as it feels good. Repeat on the other side.
Seated hamstring stretch
You can do this at your desk at work. While you are sitting, you can extend one leg out in front of you. Again, bend gently and slowly at the waist, toward your toes. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
- Why this works – Stretching the piriformis and hamstring muscles can bring relief to an irritated sciatic nerve.
I have written previously about inversion tables and my experience over the years. Inversion therapy has been a big help with my back problems. I was first introduced to an inversion table; back in 2011, I was not instructed on how to use it correctly. I actually did more harm than good.
During my recovery from an injury in 2016, my chiropractor gave me specific instructions on how to use an inversion table properly. No, I do not hang completely upside down like a bat. I invert at about a 60-degree angle, which is a great angle for the spine to decompress.
When I first started, I inverted at about 15 degrees, my back was pretty messed up and I was starting out slow. Honestly, during this period of recovery, I was dealing with stenosis and I could not stand up straight. Getting to lay flat on the inversion table was a big step for me.
Now I use my inversion table a few times per week. I oscillate up and down, meaning I invert to my 60-degree angle for about 30 seconds, and then I return to a flat position for 30 seconds, where my body is parallel to the ground. I repeat this for 10 minutes. The reason I do this is that this motion acts as a pump to bring blood flow and fluids to my lower back where I have problems.
- Why this works – As I mentioned, pumping blood and other fluids to the affected area can aid in healing. In addition, the discs will be decompressed when you invert and this can bring pain relief.
I have found that sometimes walking is totally doable and other times not so much. It depends on how bad my pain is. Sometimes after a good walk, I feel loosened up and that is great. Other times I have had pain to the point that I could not make it to the end of the block.
Try to walk in a way that will not put undue stress on your lower back. Avoid hills or uneven terrain until you can build up enough strength to do this without pain.
- Why this works – Walking is a gentle, low-impact exercise that can help to strengthen your legs, and core muscles without straining.
Low back stretcher
This is a low-cost option to help you treat sciatica pain at home. A low back stretcher is shaped like a half-moon and fits under your lower back when you are laying down.
The purpose of the low back stretcher is to help stretch and relax the muscles that support the spine. In turn, this will allow the spine to elongate and decompress.
Again, this is an inexpensive option and works well for a lot of people.
- Why this works – A low back stretcher is a cost-effective way to decompress the lower back and help relieve pain.
Conclusion: Treat sciatica pain at home
Well, I hope you have enjoyed reading this article on sciatica treatment at home. You can do these things at your convenience. If you are interested in purchasing an inversion table check out this post.
These are all treatment options that have worked for me over the years. Unfortunately treating sciatica is not a one-size-fits-all remedy. What works for one person, may not work for another. This is why it is critical to get a proper diagnosis from your doctor before you jump right in.