Treating back pain and sciatica: 8 better things to do now
Back pain that can be isolated or include other symptoms such as mild to intense discomfort caused by inflammation in the sciatic nerve, known as sciatica, can be nerve wracking as anyone dealing with the condition already knows.
Is there a natural, drug-free way to treat your back or sciatic pain? Here are 7 better ways to get healthier if you're dealing with pain. What you should know and 7 other things to do now to get relief.
Symptoms of sciatica
- Intermittent pain
- Low back pain that can extend to the buttock or down the leg to the ankle
- Inability to get comfortable in any position.
- The pain might worsen when you sit
- Pain on one side of buttocks - in the middle
- Hip pain
- Weakness on the affected side
- Burning sensation in the buttocks, hip or leg
Causes of back, hip, knee and leg pain
Your doctor might recommend and MRI to pinpoint the cause of the problem that can stem from pinched nerve in the spine from displaced discs in the spine, narrowing of the spinal canal, bone spur (an abnormal bony growth) or degenerative disc disease or a tumor. Sciatica can also be caused by muscle spasm.
Usual treatment for pain is anti-inflammatory medication or narcotics, muscle relaxants and medications that target nerve pain,
Most prescriptions have side effects that include drowsiness, constipation, stomach upset, lack of appetite and even depression. Taking medications might be necessary for a short period of time to help with needed rest, but they can also interfere with healing.
Before you embark on any treatment for back, hip or related pain it’s important to get the right diagnosis and speak to your doctor before starting or resuming any type of physical activity.
Recent information from the Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons highlights the importance of understanding back pain can be the result of a hip problem.
Conversely hip pain could be coming from a problem occurring in your back.
The article, published February 2017 Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS) warns about the importance of finding the origin of of back pain that can radiate to the buttocks, hip or even the knee.
Know that what you might think is sciatic pain could be something else that could include fracture of the hip, poor blood supply to the hip, cartilage damage or other sources.
Keep detailed records of your symptoms to discuss with your doctor who should take detailed information and perform an in depth physical assessment including observing how you walk.
Stay active: Don’t go to bed. Instead of resting - and this might be hard - do your best to continue your normal activities, even if you have to do them more slowly. Studies have found bedrest might provide some temporary relief but you’re recovery time will end up longer. It doesn’t take much time to become deconditioned from too much rest. The result will be weaker muscles, more susceptibility to injury and the potential for loss of independence with daily activities.
Experiment using heat and ice: You may not know which treatment will work best for sciatica. Experimenting with alternating heat and ice is often recommended. Cold packs can calm inflammation, especially after you have been active or exercising. Heat acts to improve blood flow. Both treatments can help reduce muscle spasms that can happen from posturing or protecting your gait when trying to walk around with pain.
Yoga: Downward dog and pigeon pose are especially effective for releasing pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Another yoga stretch that can help the pain is pigeon pose.
Turmeric: The Indian spice curcumin in turmeric has been the subject of special interest recently - mostly due to it’s anti inflammatory and overall health properties.
Some people who cook with the spice or take biologically absorbable capsules report good results. Make sure you discuss taking any supplements with your doctor. Over the counter herbs and supplements could interfere with other medications you might be taking.
Transcutaneous Nerve Stimulation (TENS): You can purchase a TENS unit without a doctor’s prescription - but first ask your healthcare provider if the unit is safe and might work for you. Look for a unit that is FDA approved.
The use of neurostimulators is still somewhat controversial but evidence suggests they can help alleviate pain if you have had surgery and continue to experience back pain.
Acupuncture: A 2016 study showed acupuncture was more effective than medications for treating sciatica. Using needles to stimulate the nervous system with acupuncture also seemed to make medications more effective.
Most insurance companies provide some coverage or discount for in network acupuncturists.
Biofeedback: Therapists trained in biofeedback may also be able to help. The premise is to teach the body to recognize pain triggers and help calm stress that is inevitable when we hurt.
See a chiropractor: There is a good chance your insurance provides some discounts for in network practitioners, so you'll want to check.
Chiropractors focus on spinal health and are well educated and equipped. to help back pain and sciatica using spinal manipulation, ice and heat therapy and ultrasound.
Back pain can have many causes. Getting to the bottom of what is causing sciatica (pinched nerve) or pain in the buttocks, leg or hip is the first step. Once you learn what is causing the problem you can talk to your healthcare provider about these natural ways that may be better than prescriptions to stay active and comfortable.