The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. It originates in the low back and is responsible for feeling in the lower extremities, such as the thighs, knees, calves, ankles, feet and toes. If the sciatic nerve becomes compressed, it can cause pain and burning in all of these areas. There are treatments to help alleviate sciatic pain. Depending on the severity of your condition, one treatment–or a combination of treatments–might help.
Inversion therapy is a type of therapy that requires you to hang upside down. The theory behind inversion therapy is that the suspension will decompress the spine to relieve pain. It has been done for thousands of years and many people have had good results with inversion therapy. The treatment gently pulls the vertebrae apart to relieve pressure.
There are a couple of ways to create the vertical position. One of the most popular types of inversion therapy is with a boot-and-rack system. This can be done at home or at a gym. The boots clip onto a rack system. Once they are clipped and locked into place, the rack is inverted to allow you to hang vertically. Treatment time will vary. You might feel an increase in the pain at first. It might take several sessions to work your way up to tolerating longer sessions. If you do not have an inversion rack, you can lie on a workout bench with your head facing downward.
Heat and Ice
Heat and ice therapy is a very therapeutic treatment for pain. It is used to treat sciatic pain to help relieve not only the pain but swelling as well. There is a protocol for using heat and ice, however, and to get the best benefits, as well as not cause any further damage, it should be followed.
Ice should be used first when treating a new injury. It not only helps with pain but helps with swelling. Apply the ice for 15 to 20 minutes then leave it off for 30 minutes. After 48 hours, you can begin to use heat. Heat helps to increase circulation, which facilitates healing. You should apply the heat for 30 minutes, leave it off for an hour, then reapply.
For an ongoing problem with sciatica, you can use heat and ice in combination. Use ice first for 15 to 20 minutes, wait 30 to 60 minutes, then apply the heat for approximately 30 to 45 minutes. Using both heat and ice will not only help reduce pain, but will increase circulation to provide a longer-lasting relief of your symptoms. You can repeat this treatment as often as necessary.
If done correctly, yoga has been found to be a beneficial treatment for sciatic pain. Yoga stretches can help lessen sciatica, however, this is primarily true if the cause of sciatica is piriformis syndrome. Piriformis syndrome is pain involving the piriformis muscle, which is found in the lower part of the spine. This muscle plays a role in hip rotation.
It is the gentle stretching of this muscle that may reduce sciatic pain. There is something to consider, however, and that is that not all yoga stretches benefit sciatica. There are certain poses that can irritate the condition and should be avoided. One pose is the forward fold. Twisting exercises can also irritate sciatic nerve pain. It is also a good idea to understand that any exercise that involves stretching the back of the legs can irritate sciatica and should be done with extreme caution, if at all.