The video below also illustrates a simple one-minute daily stretching routine8 that can help reduce sciatic pain stemming from an overly tight piriformis muscle in your buttocks.
Other Treatment Options for Sciatica
A related article in Prevention Magazine lists a number of other treatment alternatives for sciatica, including the following:
Chiropractic care In one 2010 study,10 60 percent of people with sciatica who received chiropractic care three times a week for four weeks experienced the same degree of relief as those who ended up getting surgery
Acupuncture Research published in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine found that 17 out of 30 patients with sciatica experienced complete relief with acupuncture. You may need about a dozen treatment sessions to see improvement
Yoga As reported in the featured article:12“A study in the journal Pain reported that people with chronic back pain who practiced Iyengar yoga for 16 weeks saw pain reduced by 64 percent and disability by 77 percent. Although yoga’s effects on sciatica are less clear, gentle forms may be beneficial.”
Pilates A recent Spanish study13,14 found that older women with back pain can reduce their pain, improve balance, and reduce risk of falling by adding Pilates to their physiotherapy routine. All of the 100 women in the study received 40 minutes of nerve stimulation and 20 minutes of massage and stretching twice a week. Half of them also did one hour of Pilates twice a week. At the end of the six-week long study, those taking Pilates reported greater improvements.
Trigger point massage Trigger point therapy, where the therapist applies firm pressure to points on your piriformis, lower back muscles, and glutes, can help release the pressure and impingement on the sciatic nerve
Topical preparations Anti-inflammatory oils and liniments can also be helpful. Examples include St. John’s wort oil and cayenne pepper cream. Apply to the painful area two to three times a day
Avoiding Sitting May Be Part of the Long-Term Solution for Back Pain
While maintaining proper posture when sitting can be helpful for avoiding pain in a variety of different areas, including your back, neck, and shoulders, an even better solution may be to avoid sitting altogether. I struggled with persistent back pain for many years despite seeing many chiropractors, stretches and strengthening exercises, laser treatments, grounding, massage, and using an inversion table. It wasn’t until I decided to experiment with standing as much as possible that I noticed significant improvement.
Paradoxically, standing initially would cause pain and it was difficult for me to stand in an hour lecture without pretty severe back pain. But by reducing my 12 to 14 hours of daily sitting to under one hour, my back pain vanished. Now I typically sit for less than 30 minutes a day and have been free of low back pain for many months.
I stand most of the day on a 2 foot by 4 foot cushioned grounding pad that I designed. If you have a desk job, I highly recommend investing in a stand-up desk. I’m so convinced of the benefits of standing up rather than sitting down that I’m in the process of providing employees at my office with stand-up desks, and cushioned grounding pads once we have them available. Below is the video I shot for our 18th anniversary showing my home office stand up desk.
This is part and parcel of the evidence that the human body was built for more or less continuous movement — not consistent strenuous activity, but gentle non-exercise activity, and this includes simply standing. In other words, your body ceases to function properly when it is too still for too long. The evidence suggests sitting for just one consecutive hour is too long. Ideally, sitting should break up your movement, not the other way around.
Other Strategies for Preventing Back Pain
Preventing back pain is surely easier than treating it, and there are many alternatives available, in addition to what I’ve already mentioned above. Here are a dozen more tips that can help you lead a pain-free life:
Exercise – Exercise and physical activity will help strengthen the muscles of your spine. Make your exercise time count by including high-intensity sessions. You probably only need this once or twice a week at the most. You’ll also want to include exercises that really challenge your body intensely along with those that promote muscle strength, balance, and flexibility.
Yoga, which is particularly useful for promoting flexibility and core muscles, has also been proven beneficial if you suffer with back pain. The Yoga Journal15 has an online page demonstrating specific poses that may be helpful.
Mind your posture – If you spend many hours every day sitting down, pay careful attention to minding your posture.
When standing, keep your weight spread evenly on your feet, and don’t slouch when standing or sitting to avoid putting stress on your back muscles. Always support your back, and avoid bending over awkwardly. Protect your back while lifting – this activity, along with carrying, puts the most stress on your back.
Foundation Training exercises are also excellent, as they work to gradually pull your body out of the movement patterns that are hurting you. The focus is on strengthening your core, which helps stabilize your spine, vertebrae, discs, and pelvis.
Vitamin D and K2 – Optimize your vitamin D and K2 levels to prevent the softening of the bones that can often lead to lower back pain.
Grounding – Grounding yourself to the earth, also known as Earthing, decreases inflammation in your body, which can help quiet down back pain and other types of pain. Your immune system functions optimally when your body has an adequate supply of electrons, which are easily and naturally obtained by barefoot/bare skin contact with the earth.
Research indicates the earth’s electrons are the ultimate antioxidants, acting as powerful anti-inflammatories. Whenever possible, take a moment to venture outside and plant your bare feet on the wet grass or sand. Walking barefoot is also an excellent way to strengthen your feet and arches.
Address psychological factors – Few people want to be told that their pain is psychological or emotional in origin, but there’s quite a bit of evidence that backs this up. Dr. John Sarno,16 for example, used mind-body techniques to treat patients with severe low back pain and has authored a number of books on this topic.
His specialty was those who have already had surgery for low back pain and did not get any relief. This is one tough group of patients, yet he had a greater than 80 percent success rate using techniques like theEmotional Freedom Technique (he has now retired from practice).
K-Laser treatment – Infrared laser therapy treatment helps reduce pain, reduce inflammation, and enhance tissue healing — both in hard and soft tissues, including muscles, ligaments, or even bones. These benefits are the result of enhanced microcirculation, as the treatment stimulates red blood cell flow in the treatment area. Venous and lymphatic return is also enhanced, as is oxygenation of those tissues.
The infrared wavelengths used in the K-Laser allow for targeting specific areas of your body. The K-Laser is unique in that it is the only Class 4 therapy laser that utilizes the appropriate infrared wavelengths that allow for deep penetration into the body to reach areas such as your spine and hip. For more information about this groundbreaking technology, and how it can help heal chronic pain, please listen to my previous interview with Dr. Harrington.
Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of water to enhance the height of your intervertebral disks. Because your body is composed mostly of water, keeping yourself hydrated will also keep you fluid and reduce stiffness.
Avoid smoking – Smoking reduces blood flow to your lower spine and promotes degeneration of your spinal disks.
Pay attention to how and how long you sleep – Studies have linked insufficient sleep with increased back and neck problems. Also pay attention to your sleep position. Sleep on your side to reduce curving of your spine, and stretch before getting out of bed. A firm bed is recommended.
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