Pain in the body can be hard to deal with. It’s hard enough when you know the cause, but when the cause is opaque or even unknown, it’s even harder to figure out how to mitigate.
Of all the various types of pain, there is one that is both ubiquitous and yet one of the most difficult to deal with. Sciatica is a common condition for those of us who are middle-aged in which there is pain that runs from the lower back down one leg. In the condition, the root of pain usually lies with the sciatic nerve, which travels through the lower portion of the back and buttock, and then further, all the way down the leg. This is the largest single nerve in the human body, and so when it is impacted it can cause a great deal of pain.
Pain is a distraction that keeps us from doing our best. When dealing with pain, it’s near to impossible to perform quickly and efficiently at work, or to concentrate on loved ones at home. Wouldn’t you rather be out and about, enjoying all that life has to offer, rather than stationary at home under the influence of pain medication and unable to move?
That’s why it’s important to delve deep into the nature of sciatica, to understand how it operates and what we can do to reduce or cure it.
The symptoms of this condition arise in response to compression of the sciatic nerve. This can happen due to all manner of spinal misalignments, such as a herniated disc in which cartilage bulges into the nerve, inflammation of the surrounding muscles, or enlarged spinal vertebrae which can happen when the spine is stressed.
Medication is not known to effectively treat the pain of sciatica. Surgery is sometimes considered as an option, but it is usually overkilled as the symptoms often resolve themselves in a matter of weeks. But what to do in the meantime?
If you’re looking for a way to reduce the pain you suffer, there are a number of alternative treatments for sciatica which could warrant your attention. These include the two related treatments of acupuncture and acupressure, a science-based treatment called biofeedback, and then yoga.
Acupuncture is an ancient technique that requires the use of needles to treat many illnesses in the body. It’s a treatment from traditional Chinese medicine that relies on a concept known as Qi, which you can pronounce as “chee”.
Qi is a force that flows through the body. When it is blocked, it is supposed to cause sickness. There are different points located along and just under the body’s surface known as “meridians” that can affect different body parts or organs. A very thin and needle, sterilized, of course, is inserted into these meridians at a shallow depth. This is supposed to unblock qi and help it flow, hopefully mitigating the effects of illness.
People often turn to acupuncture to treat pain, especially difficult to resolve back pain and nerve pain. This is because it is a good way to reduce inflammation. Thus, if your sciatic nerve is being impacted by inflammation located in the surrounding muscle, consider acupuncture as a way to relieve the pain.
Acupressure is another treatment derived from Chinese traditional medicine. This technique is similar to acupuncture, but instead of needles, pressure is applied in specific areas. This is a non-invasive treatment, so a good alternative for those who dislike needles. It’s just as effective at reducing pain, so consider using acupressure for sciatica if you cannot obtain acupuncture.
Biofeedback is a very interesting treatment. The term was coined in 1969 but derived from research starting from the late 19th century. The idea is that you use machines to provide feedback on biological processes, paying attention to what you can do to change these processes. Thereby you should be able to learn how to manipulate your body in response to back pain, headache, cramps, or other unpleasant internal experiences.
This treatment makes use of many different electrical devices. These devices measure different qualities of your body and provide a direct audio or visual representation of the measurement.
There are many different instruments for treating a wide range of conditions. For pain specifically, one common instrument in use is the electromyograph. Through either surface electrodes for muscles near the surface or intramuscular electrodes to detect muscles deeper within the body, this machine measures the electric potential of a muscle or group of muscles. There is also the feedback thermometer, which measures temperature of the body. This one is also very good for pain.
Under the guidance of a trained biofeedback therapist, a sufferer of back pain can learn how to manipulate their body, and hopefully reduce or maybe even resolve pain that occurs in the area of the sciatic nerve.
Yoga as alternative treatment is a well-known phenomenon. In fact, along with acupuncture, it’s one of the earliest treatments for pain that we have on record. Although it is ultimately a spiritual and religious discipline, yoga became popular in the 1980s as a low impact form of stretching and even exercise. It has recently become in vogue among sufferers of back pain since many of the positions target the core area of the body.
When it comes to sciatica, in particular, yoga can help due to the way it encourages limberness. Stretching the muscles of the back can keep them from over contracting and help them deal with inflammation better. This can have a direct impact on anything that may be affecting the sciatic nerve.
This is especially helpful when the cause of sciatica is what’s known as piriformis syndrome. In this case, the muscle at the base area of the spine, the piriformis muscle, causes much of the pain in the sciatic nerve. Some yogic positions stretch this muscle out, helping it to relax and reducing pain.
It’s a good idea to try yoga as the alternative treatment when nothing else will help or in conjunction with other treatments.You should have consulted a physical therapist before yoga and be sure to pay attention to how it affects your body, as some positions are better than others.
Sciatica, this all too difficult to treat the condition, is not something you must live with. But when doctors give you ineffective medication and tell you to wait it out, it can be quite frustrating.
There are, in fact, treatments out that that can make it a much more livable condition while you wait for it to resolve. The alternative treatments for sciatica listed above are good options to try, and they work for sufferers every day.
In addition to following the above techniques, it’s a good idea to pay attention to preventative behavior. Try not to lift heavy objects awkwardly during and after a bout with back pain. Practice good posture and exercise regularly, concentrating on back strength.
With care and attention, you can improve the health of your back, spine, and lower body, making it much less likely that back pain will reoccur. And once you have less pain, you’ll have more time to concentrate on the important things in your life.