The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in our body, and damage to this area can be exhausting and debilitating.
What is sciatica?
When the sciatic nerve in the lower spine becomes compressed or irritated, the increased pressure can cause intense pain.
Beginning in the lower spine, symptoms usually include a painful tingling sensation which travels from your buttocks, through your pelvic area and down one or both legs to your feet. What many people don’t realise is that sciatica is not a disease but a symptom of an underlying medical issue, making sciatica trickier to treat.
What causes sciatica?
The most common cause of sciatica is a slipped (prolapsed) disc, which causes pressure on the sciatic nerve. Though less common, a number of spinal conditions and injuries such as degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, isthmic spondylolisthesis and piriformis syndrome can also result in the damage of this nerve.
Sufferers often describe the pain associated with sciatica as repetitive and relentless, creating a serious amount of discomfort that can be difficult to manage during the pace of everyday life.
How can sciatica be managed?
If you’re suffering with sciatica these tips may help you to deal with, and minimise nerve pain:
Diet – sometimes food is the best medicine, and a well-balanced diet packed with antioxidants and vitamins will help to accelerate your body’s natural healing processes. Incorporate wholegrains, pulses, and omega 3 fatty acids such as nuts and fish, as well as a colourful range of fruits, vegetables and leafy greens into your diet. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption, refined carbs such as white bread, processed sugars and saturated fats.
Get moving – desk jobs are a huge culprit in our society’s increasing lack of activity, and can actually worsen the effects of sciatica. Focus on lengthening the spine through practicing good posture, as well as regular walks, even if they are just a few metres at first. This will improve your core and back muscles, making them better equipped to support the spine.
Heat pads – many people suffering from nerve pain find relief by alternating hot and cold presses to the inflamed area, to help soothe swelling and loosen tight muscles. Apply the pads to the painful area for 15-20 minutes and alternate every few hours.
Yoga – gentle yoga poses can be beneficial for strengthening muscles and improving flexibility. It’s great for relieving stress too! Seek advice from a yoga professional to make sure you aren’t causing any further damage.
Natural remedies – the anti-inflammatory properties in turmeric root make it a good choice for soothing nerve pain and tackling inflammation. Try a cup of turmeric milk each night before bed; simply heat almond milk with 1tbsp of turmeric, 1tbsp of cinnamon and a dash of honey or maple syrup. Ginger root is also renowned for its pain relief properties, and should feature prominently in your diet. Grate 2cm of ginger into a mug with a slice of lemon and add hot water. Strain, and enjoy up to 3 times a day.
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