Popular Methods for Sciatica Pain Relief: Are They Really Effective?
Sciatica is a condition that affects millions of people all over the world every year. It’s not unusual to see people browsing online to find solutions for this affliction. If you’re one of them, you probably come across an innumerable amount of articles promising different treatments, and you’ve probably also heard advice from friends or family explaining what worked for them.
There’s all kind of alternatives out there, there’s the ones that promise fast results, others that promise to be life changing. But are all of them worthy?
It can be overwhelming to make a decision, which is why in the following paragraphs, we’ll examine the most popular methods for sciatica pain relief and if they are truly effective. But, first and foremost, let’s clarify some doubts regarding sciatica discomfort.
Can Resting Make Sciatica Go Away by Itself?
If you got diagnosed with sciatica, you probably want to spend some time relaxing and resting because of the discomfort and numbness you feel, but doing so won’t make your symptoms better. In fact, did you know that in some cases, getting too much sleep and rest can aggravate them?
It’s recommended that you develop an exercise plan that enables you to be active while controlling your aching. During flare-ups, you may choose to relax for a day or two, but you should concentrate on strengthening and stretching your muscles to stop the discomfort from getting worse or returning.
In certain cases, sciatica goes away on its own within a month or two without medical intervention. Sadly, this doesn’t mean it’s permanently gone. It may return or possibly become a chronic problem if the underlying issue that caused it’s not treated, so you should definitely have it checked as soon as possible and discover what’s really causing your sciatica.
What Can Cause Sciatica to Come Back?
You’re far more likely to experience recurrent problems if your sciatica was provoked by lifestyle choices. For example, if you have weight problems, this condition puts additional stress on your spine, particularly if you carry most of the weight in your midsection. Your spine may become out of alignment over time, which could compress your sciatic nerve.
Smoking, on the other hand, raises your chance of sciatica flare-ups by causing blood vessel damage and disrupting regular circulation. As a result, the tissue surrounding your spine and your spine itself receive less oxygen and nutrients, making them more vulnerable to damage and inflammation.
Finally, your chance of developing chronic sciatica might rise because of your job. Specially if it involves a lot of standing, sitting, or repetitive lifting. Although you might not be able to change your profession, there may be certain things you can do to support or strengthen your back while working, both on and off the job.
Many people with chronic sciatica commonly have untreated spine diseases or conditions, so they frequently experience symptoms of this affliction. This includes issues like scoliosis, herniated discs, and other spine issues like spinal stenosis or spondylolisthesis (a condition where one vertebra slips forward over another), which tend to become more prevalent as you age.
How Long Does It Take for Sciatica to Truly Go Away?
That depends – there are two possibilities. Is it chronic or acute sciatica? Acute episodes resolve themselves in a matter of weeks, maybe a couple of months but some people have to deal with them several times a year. Although the aching is typically less intense than during an acute episode, chronic sciatica can cause you to endure discomfort on a regular basis. Treatment for chronic sciatica has to go hand in hand with lifestyle changes and ongoing solutions. If no other therapies are effective enough and you can’t perform your everyday activities, surgery is a last resort option.
Depending on the case, the recovery time can be different:
At a milder level, this could last only a couple of weeks to a month. With a more intense discomfort joined by tingling, the duration could be up to three months. In these cases, the specialist should indicate the most appropriate treatment for the condition. When it’s a more serious affliction, where there is even a decrease in reflexes and numbness of the leg, it could last from 4 to 6 months; surgery may even be necessary.
Now, let’s take a look at the most popular alternatives to deal with those uncomfortable flare-ups.
Alternative Methods for Sciatica Discomfort Relief
This treatment is supposed to act as a natural anti-inflammatory and trigger a physiological reaction that releases endorphins. In order to achieve this, a specialist will inject 20 to 30 painless, hair-thin needles in strategic places to relieve any discomfort and loosen up tight muscles.
Is it Effective?
There’s no real consensus yet. On one hand, acupuncture is taken as one of the most effective alternative methods in the treatment for sciatic discomfort relief due to its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, some studies state that acupuncture may be more effective than prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. On the other hand, others believe that it’s nothing more than a placebo and that there’s insufficient evidence to confirm its benefits, and the lack of research on the matter supports this position.
Physical therapy with an emphasis on flexibility and posture is almost always advised as a component of the treatment for sciatica. Exercise programs of all kinds are helpful for people with this condition or for those who are in the process of recovering. Theoretically, the symptoms of sciatica might improve with a yoga practice that concentrates on specific gentle moves while avoiding others.
Is it effective?
Yoga is typically regarded as a secure kind of exercise for healthy people. However, since it’s easy to overdo it, strains and other injuries can occur. It’s important to remember:
- Don’t hold a pose for long if you feel it intensifies your symptoms.
- Avoid hunching over.
- Don’t forward-fold more than you can manage.
Yoga asanas and mindful, calm breathing can be helpful for sciatica discomfort. However, it’s important to point out that yoga does not serve as a substitute for either physical treatment or medical guidance.
Biofeedback is the technique of re-training physical states of your body that aren’t ordinarily under your conscious control using a monitoring device. Biofeedback measures a physical process and then quickly reports the information with the final objective of consciously changing that physical condition, which can be lowering your heart rate, lower pressure, or muscle tension.
Is it Effective?
According to the theory, you may alter your behaviors to minimize or fully eliminate your discomfort once you understand what is causing it. It could also help you relax the muscles that are responsible for said discomfort. However, there isn’t enough evidence to support its efficacy in sciatica, as it has been proven to work well in alleviating other conditions such as anxiety disorder, epilepsy and sleep disorders.
Conventional Medicine Options
This is one of the most sought for methods. Injections for sciatica also offer a focused form of treatment. Steroids and cortisone can be administered exactly where you are experiencing discomfort rather than taking painkillers that may have an impact on your complete body.
Is it Effective?
The advantages of these injections can vary from patient to patient, which is a downside. For instance, some individuals get notable improvement a few days after receiving treatment. These results can persist for up to a year, but other people may only find that the discomfort subsided for only a few days or weeks. With this alternative solution, it is unclear what to expect and how to understand its real benefits.
Pain Relievers and Muscle Relaxants
Prescribed Pain Relievers
These type of drugs, like opioids, can be very effective. However, when you stop using them, your aching frequently gets worse, not to mention they can be addictive. As a result, doctors typically only prescribe them for brief periods of time and save them for cases of extreme discomfort.
While muscle relaxants and other medications frequently offer sciatica discomfort relief, they do not provide a long-term cure for sciatica. They don’t treat the problem itself permanently; at best, they just reduce the discomfort that comes along with it.
Topical Ointments, Creams, and Gels
Topical gels, lotions, and ointments for sciatica help calm the muscles that may be inflamed and block nerve discomfort. Even better, they begin to function immediately after usage.
Is it Effective?
Most people discover that these products provide some comfort. However, not everyone has sciatica in the same way, so look for a product that claims to address your specific symptoms. Remember: a topical must reach the inflamed tissue in a concentrated enough amount to have a meaningful anti-inflammatory impact.
Applying Heat or Cold
One of the most recommended solutions is to use cold or ice therapy as soon as the first sciatica symptoms arise. Applying ice to the sciatic nerve and lower back will relieve the aching and stop it from spreading throughout the body. Medical practitioners advise using cold therapy for the first 48 to 72 hours after experiencing sciatica. Heat therapy should be avoided, though, until this period has gone because it can make the inflammation worse.
Can Heat Make Sciatica Worse?
Using a heating pad appropriately can be a great alternative for sciatica. However, the wrong timing to apply heat to your back can exacerbate sciatica since it can increase swelling and lead to fluid buildup. Therefore, while heat does aid in the promotion of healing after treating inflammation with cold therapy, it cannot replace cold therapy when dealing with acute discomfort. Consult your doctor and try not to do this by yourself.
Stretching is the best sciatica treatment since it keeps your spine healthy and lowers your risk of flare-ups in the future.
Stretching your muscles also improves blood flow and decreases inflammation. This in turn results in a greater range of motion and notable sciatica discomfort relief. Stretching will also assist in enhancing your posture, which is crucial since one of the most common causes of sciatica is bad posture.
The main idea is to target the precise muscles that are pinching your nerves to treat the underlying cause of your sciatica. It’s crucial to consider both the location of the sciatic nerve and the symptoms when stretching. Stretches that target the lower back and, in some situations, the backs of the legs are the most effective at alleviating your discomfort.
In order to make the most out of the stretching method, however, the best and safest possible way to do it is with the guidance of an expert in the matter. Let’s see why.
Why is Assisted Stretching the Go-To Option?
Stretching in general is ideal for any muscular or nerve-related discomfort. However, assisted stretching benefits are unmatchable, and you would want the guidance of an expert to make the most out of this alternative.
You might not know where to begin if you are new to this method. An expert will be able to advise you on the best stretching techniques and motions for your particular scenario, since this alternative is completely personalized. They will also be aware of how to exert advantageous pressure without risking the possibility of an injury.
The results you can achieve through assisted stretching are another advantage. When your muscles feel like they are being overstretched, a natural reflex called “tonus” begins to work. This reflex is useful because it helps avoid any possible injury. You might be prevented from engaging in those longer, more advantageous stretches by yourself, but you can feel safe and go deep while working with a qualified professional.
Give Practitioner-Assisted Stretching an Opportunity for Sciatica Pain Relief
As you can see, there are different methods that promise to ease the discomfort that sciatica can put you through. Here, at Stretch Zone, we want you to make informed decisions so you know which of those alternatives can actually be a solution for what you need. If you’re ready to give practitioner-assisted stretching the chance to alleviate sciatica, don’t hesitate to contact us today and book your first free session. We’ll answer all your questions and be ready to guide you through the process so you can start feeling the benefits as soon as possible.