If you suffer from sciatica -- an extremely painful inflammation of the sciatic nerve that runs from your lower back to the back of your leg -- you may be desperate for any treatment or medication that will help relieve the chronic pain and numbness you're experiencing. If the normal recommended drugs and therapies aren't giving you much relief, you may have considered turning to alternative ways to treat sciatica. However, spending valuable time and money on ineffective treatments may be just as frustrating as dealing with the pain itself. Read on to learn more about some alternative treatments that have been shown to be effective, as well as a few on which you'll want to pass.
What alternative treatments have been shown to relieve sciatic pain?
There are several treatments that have not only received rave reviews from sciatica sufferers, but have scientific evidence to corroborate their effectiveness on most patients.
This treatment involves the insertion of hair-thin needles into various pressure points on your body to open "channels" that can help improve circulation and provide pain relief. By focusing these needles on the areas that affect the alignment of your lower spine and pelvis, an acupuncturist can help ease your sciatic nerve pain. You may feel instant relief as soon as the needles are placed, or could notice an improvement in your pain levels and ability to move a few days later.
Another therapy that can offer you significant pain relief is chiropractic. By manipulating your spine and applying heat and pressure, a chiropractor can help remove any pressure on your sciatic nerve and allow you more freedom of movement. You'll likely feel instant relief after your chiropractic treatment, but may need to make regular appointments with your chiropractor until your sciatic pain has fully resolved itself.
Often combined with acupuncture or chiropractic (or both), massage can help provide pain relief for chronic lower back pain. You may also wish to have the backs of your legs massaged to help relieve muscle pressure and tension on your sciatic nerve. Generally, the effects of this treatment will last for a few weeks, as long as you're careful not to aggravate your sciatic nerve in the meantime.
Is there anything you'll want to avoid while undergoing sciatica treatment?
There are some treatments and types of exercise that can aggravate your condition, causing further inflammation of the sciatic nerve and an increased pain level.
- Hamstring stretches
Because your sciatic nerve is embedded within the muscles surrounding your hamstring, stretching these muscles can actually stretch your sciatic nerve as well. If you're using other treatments or therapies to help reduce inflammation, regularly stretching your hamstrings or the backs of your legs can halt any progress you're making.
- High-impact exercises
Although workouts like running can help improve your cardiovascular health, they can also wreak havoc on the alignment of your spine and pelvis and aggravate your sciatic nerve. You may find that your back is so sore and stiff the morning after a run that you have trouble even getting out of bed. While you're recovering, sticking to low-impact exercises (like bicycling or using an elliptical machine) is a better choice than running, aerobics, and other high-impact exercises.
- Lifting heavy objects
If you're regularly lifting objects that are more than a small proportion of your body weight, you'll want to take extra care. The traditional advice to "lift with your legs, not with your back" can become more complex when you're dealing with sciatic pain that travels your back and legs. To the extent you can, avoid lifting anything heavy while undergoing treatment.