Sciatica is the irritation of the sciatic nerve most commonly caused by the compression of the nerve or a herniated disc in the lumbar zone or the sacrum. It comes with pain, weakness, numbness and/or tingling along the whole length of the nerve, which runs along and through the lumbar zone, butt, back of the thighs, and back of the legs, all the way to the heel.
Symptoms can begin to show as a simple tingling feeling and suddenly worsen due to bad posture, heavy lifting, or staying in the same position for a long time, until the point that it handicaps you from walking or normal movement and forces you to maintain a position of rest.
Treatment of sciatica
The majority of episodes of sciatica disappear on their own, but we can speed up the healing process and calm the pain with a few careful steps:
- 24 hours of absolute rest.
- When resting, you should lie in bed either on your side with a pillow between your legs or on your back with a pillow under your knees. Never sleep face down when suffering an episode of sciatica.
- During the first few days, apply ice to painful areas to calm the inflammation. For the days that follow, apply heat to improve circulation and speed up the healing process.
- You can take anti-inflammatory drugs or analgesics such as ibuprofen or tylenol. If these pharmaceuticals do not seem to help, pay a visit to your doctor so that they can prescribe you more potent formulas.
- Even after the pain disappears, you should avoid intense physical exercise for a couple of weeks.
Prevention of sciatica
Sciatica tends to make multiple visits, in which case you should always consult a doctor to determine the cause and treat it. There are, however, certain common pieces of advice known to help avoid the possibility of repeated attacks.
- Make sure you are sleeping on a firm mattress and always use a pillow in order to avoid forcing the neck and spine into unnatural positions.
- When standing, try to distribute your weight evenly between both legs and keep your back straight.
- Keep your head and shoulders back as you walk.
- Use shoes with a tiny bit of a heel or platform – never use shoes that are completely flat.
- If you must sit for long periods of time, support your back and sit up straight; your knees and butt should be at the same height and your thighs parallel to the ground – elevate your feet if necessary.
- When you pick something up, keep your back straight and use the muscles in your legs to bear the weight.
- When you drive, keep your back against the chair and, if the trip is long, rest every so often.
- Try to engage in exercises that strengthen your back muscles and those in the lumbar zone such as swimming, yoga, or pilates.