Sciatica is a common type of back pain caused by compression on particular lumbar or sacral nerves. While rare, it is sometimes caused by compression on the sciatic nerve itself. The pain is usually relegated to one side of the back. Depending on the particular causes of sciatica, the symptoms of sciatica can be acute, chronic or episodic. Traditional treatments for sciatica can range from the passive (doing nothing and letting the symptoms pass) to the mild (taking NSAIDs or oral steroids) to the extreme (epidural steroid injections or surgery). Many people who suffer from sciatica opt to find alternative treatments for their painful symptoms.
Acupuncture has been practiced with greater frequency in the United States over the last few decades. Acupuncture involves inserting and manipulating sterilized needles into points along the body for the purposes of therapy and pain relief. The traditional belief of Acupuncture is that the body contains points called meridians along which a life energy called a “qi” flows. The needles are inserted into meridians and manipulated in various ways to unblock the qi. Acupuncture is reported by many to be painless.
Acupressure, a practice closely related to Acupuncture operates on a similar premise of unblocking qi, but does so without inserting needles into the body. Instead, the acupressure practitioner uses digits and elbows to apply pressure to specific points on the body and then stimulating the points by rubbing them briskly.
If sciatica is caused by piriformis syndrome, Yoga stretches can be used to lessen the pain. Gently stretching the piriformis-a muscle in the lower spine that aids hip flexion-may help reduce pain from sciatica. It is worth noting that certain Yoga stretches involving forward folds, twisting or stretching the back of the legs can irritate sciatic pain.
Chiropractic care, the practice of manipulating the spine, other joints and soft tissues is also a viable option for many who suffer from sciatic pain. In some cases, chiropractic care may be recommended as the primary method of treatment. Chiropractic care is even recommended by the American College of Physicians as a complementary form of care for lower back pain. On the downside, some patients of chiropractic have reported soreness or aching joints and tissue following treatment.
There are countless homeopathic remedies for sciatic pain. They range from drinking a combination of potato and celery juice, to eating raw garlic and sauerkraut. There are numerous herbal remedies suggested for relieving sciatic pain as well. Many of these function as muscle relaxants, much like pharmaceutical treatments. One should take caution taking herbal remedies, as the FDA does not regulate them.
For some, prevention of sciatic pain may be the best course of action. Measures to reduce or prevent sciatic pain include exercising the core (abdominal and lower back muscles); lifting and carrying heavy items close to the body, using the legs to lift; sleeping on a mattress that relieves lower back pressure; and avoiding all of the following: extreme hip or back rotation, weight gain, sitting with legs crossed, and sitting on a wallet in the hip pocket.