When the longest nerve in your body, the sciatic nerve, becomes compressed or irritated, it leads to painful sciatica. Nearly 40% of the population will experience sciatica. Learn how to remain one of the pain-free 60%.
How to avoid sciatica in the first place
Double board-certified in pain medicine and anesthesiology, Dr. Phillip Lim advises patients in his offices in Orange County and Downtown Los Angeles, California, to practice certain techniques to reduce the risk for sciatic nerve pain, such as:
- Practice good posture while standing, sitting, and even sleeping to minimize pressure on your lower backpressure.
- Lose weight, if overweight, to lighten the pressure on your nerve.
- Stop smoking, which can advance disc problems.
- Avoid sitting for long stretches of time.
- Lift with bent legs and straight back.
In addition, be sure to get enough Vitamin B12, which helps synthesize the myelin sheath surrounding your nerves.
Exercise to help prevent sciatica
Exercise regularly to strengthen your back and abdomen muscles. Dr. Lim recommends performing certain exercises to prevent or ease your sciatica pain, such as water aerobics, which put less pressure on your back then regular aerobics, riding a stationary bike, and stretching. To reduce your chances of getting sciatica or prevent flare-ups, perform these 10 times, three times per day, every day:
- Lie on your back and bend both knees. Pull one knee at a time into your chest and hold it there for 10 seconds.
- Pull both your knees to your chest while on your back.
- With knees bent, stretch your arms to the side or hold your hands behind your head while lowering your back to the floor.
A pain in the back
Sciatica pain ranges from a shooting or throbbing pain to a continuous dull ache or intermittent mild discomfort. Osteoarthritis, tumors in the spine, and back injuries, combined with years of improper bending or sitting too long, can cause a herniated disc, which often leads to this painful condition. Certain factors may also contribute, such as age (sciatica seems to occur most frequently during your 30s and 40s, and in people over 60 years of age), diabetes, or a profession requiring a lot of heavy lifting.
Your sleep position also affects your back
We spend nearly one-third of our lives sleeping. Dr. Lim recommends a variety of sleep positions to alleviate back and nerve pressure that can lead to sciatica.
- Lie on your back with pillows supporting your neck and knees. This is considered the best position to alleviate back pain.
- Sleep in the fetal position.
- Rest in a reclined position on an adjustable bed.
- Sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees.
Help for sciatic pain
Dr. Lim offers a variety of treatments for patients suffering from sciatica, such as anti-inflammatories or muscle relaxants. He may also use a spinal cord stimulator, which employs low-voltage electric currents to interrupt the pain signals to your brain, or radiofrequency ablation, which heats areas of nerve tissue to circumvent your pain.
Other treatments to ease pain from herniated discs include:
- Acupressure and acupuncture
- Massage therapy to improve blood circulation, reduce inflammation, and release feel-good endorphins
- Chiropractic spinal adjustments to realign your discs
It couldn’t hurt to get help
If you suspect you suffer from sciatica or would like to reduce your risk for this or other painful conditions, call us or book a consultation online with Dr. Lim in Buena Park or Downtown Los Angeles today.