The sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in the body, with individual branches weaving throughout the limbs and torso. When inflammation occurs among its various branches, it can cause widespread pain throughout the lower extremities. Inflammation is the most common culprit behind this discomfort and can be attributed to herniated or ruptured intervertebral discs.1
A commonly recommended treatment for sciatica is simply to get rest, although some doctors may prescribe muscle relaxants and anesthesia to treat moderate pain. While most sciatica issues can be resolved without aggressive, invasive treatments, certain rare sciatica symptoms require immediate medical and, in extreme cases, even surgical intervention.2
If you have not yet consulted a physician, or are in the process of consulting with one, there are several steps you can take on your own to alleviate your sciatica symptoms, making daily activities like sleeping and walking much more comfortable.
Sleeping with Sciatica
Trying to rest with sciatica can be a nightmare in and of itself, preventing you from getting a decent night’s sleep uninterrupted by shooting pain in your lower extremities. Poor sleep only serves to exacerbate back pain as well.3
Taking the pressure off your lower spine definitely helps reduce sciatica symptoms, but pain can still arise from spinal misalignment and tight muscles.
- Elevate your knees – Sleeping with your knees elevated can alleviate inflammation symptoms by minimizing the pressure lumbar discs place on your nerve roots. To start, lie flat on your back on top of your mattress and raise your knees a little bit, but keep your heels and buttocks flat against the bed. Next, slide a pillow in the empty space between your elevated knees and the bed; add additional pillows until a comfortable knee position is reached. Keep experimenting and stick with it and your symptoms should alleviate in a few days.4
- Take a bath before bed – Warm baths can help you sleep by releasing pain-fighting endorphins and relaxing muscles located around the sciatic nerve. If you don’t have a bathtub, try applying a hot water bottle or heating pack to your lower back/buttocks area to achieve the same effect.
- Consider getting a new mattress – While an extreme choice for some, experts have found that sleeping on the floor can alleviate sciatic pain. It’s recommended that you sleep on a yoga mat or towel to avoid contact with the floor. Firm surfaces can help as well; even purchasing a firm mattress in lieu of your current one may potentially help with your symptoms.
- Don’t sleep on your stomach – Sleeping on your stomach hyperextends your lower back, causing the pelvis to tip forward, further exacerbating inflammation and pain. Attempt to sleep on your side or group pillows next to you as you sleep to prevent yourself from flipping over onto your stomach in the midst of sleep.3
Walking with Sciatica
Although walking is a great way to alleviate sciatic pain, a poor gait can aggravate sciatic symptoms. However, you can improve your form so walking alleviates your pain instead.5
- Take shorter strides – Shorten your strides by landing between your mid-foot and heel, and then gently roll onto your toes to push off into the next stride you take. A slower pace will also result in shorter strides, making you take shorter steps.
- Keep your core tight and active – Keeping your core tight engages your abdominal muscles and protects your sciatic nerve roots in the process, minimizing the pressure on your spine. To fully utilize your core muscles, stand upright and keep your head and shoulders tall while focusing on a distinct point in the distance. Suck in your stomach while you walk and take deep breaths while keeping a comfortable pace.
If you don’t like to walk, you can participate in alternate activities to help alleviate your issues including water therapy, stationary bikes, elliptical trainers and step machines.
Alleviate Your Sciatic Pain with Comprehensive Medical Center
Comprehensive Medical Center employs highly skilled doctors and excellent staff who are committed to working with area patients to find solutions to their sciatica issues. If you think a healthier gait or sleeping position may help with your sciatic pain, we want to help. Contact Comprehensive Medical Center today to relieve your sciatic pain.