Are you suffering with sciatica?

Are you suffering with sciatica?

If you are suffering with sciatica – we can help!

What causes sciatica?

Sciatica is caused by the irritation and/or compression of the sciatic nerve.

Sciatica describes the symptoms of pain, numbness and weakness that radiate along the sciatic nerve.  The sciatic nerve runs from the back of your pelvis, through your buttocks, down the back of both legs, ending at your feet.

Signs and symptoms of Sciatica:

Sciatic pain can vary from mild and irritating to constant and incapacitating. It can be made worse by sitting or standing for long periods, sneezing and coughing. Symptoms can be different in location and severity as this depends upon the condition causing the sciatica. While people with sciatica can suffer back pain, the pain associated with sciatica usually affects the buttocks and legs much more. Depending on the cause, symptoms can travel as far down as the feet and toes.

Sciatica is often characterised by either one or from a combination of the following symptoms:

  • Muscle weakness in the affected leg
  • Tingling sensation from the back through the buttock traveling down the leg.
  • Constant or intermittent pain in only one side of the buttock or leg (rarely can occur in both legs)
  • Pain that is worse when sitting
  • Leg pain that is often described as burning, tingling or searing
  • Weakness, numbness and/or difficulty moving the leg or foot
  • A sharp pain that may make it difficult to stand up or to walk

Causes of Sciatica are:

  • Sciatica is often caused by lower back disorders between the forth lumbar and third sacral vertebrae, where there is pressure or irritation to a lumbar nerve root.
  • Sciatica is sometimes caused by a herniated or “slipped” disc. This is when one of the discs that sit between the bones of the spine is damaged and presses on the nerves.
  • Degenerative disc disease.
  • Less common causes include spinal stenosis (narrowing of the nerve passages in the spine), a spinal injury, infection, or a growth within the spine (such as a tumour).

In rare cases, surgery may be needed to correct the underlying problem in your spine. Sciatica itself can be treatable through a range of treatments and therapies offered by professional therapists.

Other causes of sciatica

There are many other causes of sciatica that are more easily treated; for example problems with over tight muscles in the hamstrings, Piriformis Syndrome (spasm in the piriformis) and weak glutes.

Sciatica that is caused by less complicated conditions are easily treatable by a professional physical therapist such as a sports therapist or physiotherapist.

Self help

There are a combination of things you can do at home to reduce the symptoms of sciatica until the condition improves:

  • Taking over the counter anti inflammatory painkillers
  • Exercising and stretching
  • Use of hot or cold packs
  • Avoiding dehydration
  • Managing stress levels
  • Avoiding sleep deprivation

You are advised to speak to your GP or pharmacist about taking any over the counter medications.

You can minimise your risk of developing a slipped disc or back injury that could lead to sciatica by adopting a better posture and lifting techniques, stretching before and after exercise, and exercising regularly. While bed rest may provide some temporary pain relief, prolonged bed rest is often considered unnecessary and unhelpful.

Gentle stretching to the following muscle groups can help to ease sciatic tension and alleviate pain

Piriformis stretch

To stretch the piriformis, lie on your back and gently pull your knee towards your opposite shoulder. You should feel a tightness (not a pain), hold for 6 seconds, drop your leg down and repeat 5 times.

Lower back – knee to chest stretch

To improve the flexibility of your lower back lie on your back on a mat or the carpet. Place a small flat cushion or book under your head. Bend your knees and keep your feet straight and hip-width apart. Keep your upper body relaxed and your chin gently tucked in. Bend one knee up towards your chest and grasp your knee with both hands. Slowly increase this stretch as comfort allows. Hold for 20-30 seconds with controlled deep breaths. Repeat three times, alternating legs.

Standing hamstring stretch

Stand upright and raise one leg on to a stable object, such as a step. Keep that leg straight and your toes pointing straight up. Lean forward while keeping your back straight. Hold for 20-30 seconds while taking deep breaths. Repeat two to three times with each leg.

Please note that it is important that you only stretch as far as comfortable. If you are in severe pain, have undergone an operation or have a medical condition then you are advised to check with your GP if the above exercise are safe for you to practice.

We can help!

If you are suffering with sciatica and would like to know how Fit n Well can help you or if would like to book an appointment please phone Maria on 07977 427644 or email us using the link below.

Contact Fit n Well, Aston, Stone, Staffordshire ( click link)

When to see your GP

You should see your GP if your symptoms are severe or persistent, or are getting worse over time. You should immediately call 999 for an ambulance if you experience loss of sensation between your legs and around your buttocks and/or loss of bladder or bowel control as this may be caused by a more serious condition.

 

Top 5 Tips For Managing Back Pain

Fit n Well - Top 5 Tips for Managing Back Pain

Back pain is a common complaint that most of us will experience at some point in our lives. It is the leading cause of long-term sickness in the UK.

Why does your back hurt!

The most common causes of back pain result from strained muscles, sprained ligaments, wear and tear, bad posture and stress. Your back pain symptoms may be continuous and dull or sudden and sharp, lasting from only a few days to several weeks.

Back pain that has no serious underlying cause is often referred to as ‘non-specific back pain’. You may have sat at your desk with bad posture, your seat was too high or low, sneezed or coughed whilst your body was twisted, slept too long in an awkward position or lifted something too heavy.

Most back pain is caused by bad posture creating unbalances between your muscles and joints. Although it can be very painful, back pain isn’t serious in most cases and it’s only considered “chronic” if pain lasts longer than six weeks.

Lower back pain is more common than upper or middle back pain. This is because the vertebrae are more flexible in your lower back.  Pain that moves down the buttocks and one leg may be symptoms of sciatica or a slipped disc.

The knock on effects from back pain can lead to absence from work, missing out on your favourite sporting activity, hobby or just limit your ordinary daily activities.

The good news is that there are things you can do to manage your pain.

Top 5 Tips for Managing Back Pain

1  Cold or Heat Therapy

Cold and heat therapies are effective methods of non medicinal pain relief. The general advice is that cold therapy is used initially for acute injuries and heat for more chronic pain.

Cold Therapy

Cold therapy is ideal for the immediate and acute treatment of muscle strains, sprains and minor back injuries. Applying cold will slow down blood flow, thereby reducing inflammation, muscle spasm and pain.

An ice pack or a bag of frozen peas is ideal for use, but these should never be placed directly on the skin as this can cause cold burns.  Be sure to wrap it in a wet towel or cloth to avoid this from happening.

If possible apply cold therapy within 5-10 minutes of injury for between 15 and 20 minutes.

Heat therapy

Heat applied to the body speeds up the local blood circulation, increasing the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients. Heat therapy is ideal for easing and relaxing stiff muscles and it dissipates soreness in muscles and joints.

A hot water bottle wrapped in a towel, a heating pad or a wheat bag are ideal for heat therapy.  Do not apply any heat to any area for any longer than 20 minutes. Do not use on areas that are swollen, have decreased senstation, have thin skin or have undergone  radiation treatment.  Seek medical opinion before using heat therapy if you suffer from diabetes or circulatory problems.

Pliable gel packs are handy as they can be used hot or cold!

For back pain that is associated with serious underlying problems please check with your GP or consultant before using hot or cold therapy.

 2 Stay active

Unless your back pain is due to a serious injury, an operation or any other serious underlying cause, it is recommended that you stay as active as possible. Less serious back problems will resolve more quickly if you stay active.

If you take to rest and do nothing, then your pain could worsen and your natural movements become even more restricted. The trick here is to use a paced approach, rather than overdoing or underdoing it

Try to continue with daily routines and tasks that don’t cause you too much pain.  Everyone is different so it’s up to you to be sensible and not to overdo it.

Gentle exercises will help you from ceasing up further by stretching your muscles and tendons.  If you can, take your back through controlled normal ranges of movement to prevent it from locking or causing other surrounding muscles to spasm or stiffen up.

When you are up to it try walking further. Walking is good aerobic exercise and gets blood flowing to your back muscles, which can really help them recover from injury and increase strength.

Try to go swimming; this will help with frequent backache and pain.  It is non weight bearing exercise as your body is supported by the water.

When you are fit enough why not try Yoga or Pilates, they are a great way of maintaining a healthy good posture, strength and flexibility.

3 Stay positive

Research suggests that people who manage to stay positive despite their pain tend to recover more quickly and avoid long term back pain. Why not engage yourself in some things you can do that you would normally put off when you are busy rushing around.

What about making those phone calls you need to make and have been putting off. There will be numerous things you can still do that won’t cause you further pain.

Remember that non-specific back pain will gradually subside through being positive and taking action to resolve it.

Negative thoughts, depression and anxiety make your body tense which can make your back pain worse.

Yes, you can lie there rolled in a ball or you can find something better to do!

 4 A good night’s sleep

If it is comfortable to lie on your side, draw your knees slightly towards your chest and place a firm pillow or rolled towel between your knees. This will take the pressure of your lower back and prevent your upper leg from pulling your spine out of alignment.  If you prefer to sleep on your back, place a pillow under your knees, this will help to maintain the natural lumbar curve in your back and decrease stress in your spine.

When you turn over avoid twisting at the waist, move your entire body as one unit and pull in your abdomen.

Make sure you are warm enough, not having enough covers on your bed or a sleeping in a draughty room can cause tension in muscles leading to further pain and discomfort.

A good mattress is the first building block for a good night’s sleep. A mattress that is too firm will push on those main pressure points and take you out of alignment. A soft mattress won’t support those pressure points and will allow you to sink into the mattress causing uneven stresses on your body.

A medium to firm mattress is now generally considered to be good for maintaining a healthy back but that is just general guidance and does not mean that is best for you.  It is always advisable to test a potentially correct mattress for yourself before spending your money. Remember to check the manufacturer guidelines about mattress care, for example how often you should turn it over or around.

5 Over the counter painkillers

For short-term pain relief, over-the-counter NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can be taken.  Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory gels such as Ibuprofen gel are normally very effective and can be topically applied directly to the painful area.

 Make sure you speak to your pharmacist or GP to discuss what is suitable for you.

IMPORTANT

If you also have any of the following symptoms you should seek immediate medical treatment:

  • Sudden onset of acute back pain.
  • Numbness and tingling down both legs.
  • Progressive weakness in your arms or legs.
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Acute, severe stomach pain along with low back pain.
  • Have suffered a recent trauma, such as a fall or car accident.
  • Other symptoms of illness, such as fever, as well as back pain.
  • Swelling or deformity along the spine.

 Get help now!

There are many therapies and treatments that healthcare professionals and physical therapists can offer to help you manage your back pain.

Fit n Well offer the following therapies to help your back pain:

Sports Therapy Clinic (link)

  • Massage therapy
  • Ultrasound
  • Mobilisations
  • Trigger Point Therapy
  • Dry Needling (Medical Acupuncture)

Holistic Therapies (link)

  • Holistic Therapies
  • Massage
  • Hot Stones Massage
  • Reiki

To discuss your back pain problem and discover which treatments will be most beneficial for you call Maria on 07977 427644, email maria@fitnwell.co.uk or complete the contact form (link)

There’s no need to suffer in silence!