Other than hands-on, manual physical therapy, what else can you try to alleviate sciatica symptoms? There are lots of tricks that can help. These ten simple things you can do every day all add up to a BIG difference in the stress and pressure on the nerve, and along with manual physical therapy, will provide excellent symptom relief.
1. Ice the most likely source of the symptoms- your low back. If your muscles are cramping and spasming , try heat here.
2. Stop sitting (you’re compressing the nerve)! Invest in a sit to stand station at home and/or work, if you must work in sitting for prolonged periods of time. Try to get out of sitting every 20-30 min, for at least 2 minutes to improve blood flow, reduce compression, and improve your body’s capacity to heal.
3. Changing position frequently promotes blood flow and reduces the effects of chronic swelling: stiffness. Avoid prolonged positions in sitting as well as standing. If you need to stand, put one foot up on the grocery cart bottom shelf, stool, cupboard shelf, or rung ahead of you to alleviate low back strain and fatigue.
4. Paying attention to your sleep position can also relieve early morning symptoms. For side sleepers, put a thin pillow between your knees. For stomach sleepers, a pillow under your stomach while keep your spine in neutral. For back sleepers, place 2 very fluffy pillows, a sleeping bag, or rolled up comforter or thick blanket under your knees, to reduce the chronic pull on the low back.
5. Avoid long sitting, which is sitting in a chair with both feet up in front of you, on the coffee table or the ottoman. Feel free to recline back with your feet ahead, but if you are sitting upright, place no more than one leg up on a surface ahead of you at a time to avoid prolonged over-stretch of the sciatic nerve.
6. Using this decompression position at the end of a day spent sitting at work or sitting in the car can help give immediate pain relief by supplying light traction to your low back and off-loading your spine.
7. Flossing your sciatic nerve with this neural mobilization technique improves blood flow to the nerve, reduces adhesions within the nerve sheath, and promotes overall nerve health and reduces nerve tension. Although this flossing technique will increase your pain as you are doing it, over time you will notice less pain and more mobility both during and for hours and days after performing this exercise.
Directions: slouch as shown. Pull foot up and down 10x, 2x/day.
8. If you feel a large area of knotted up tissue at the back of your hip, feel free to address it using this self mobilization technique. Place your flat hand palm down (for very tight and painful tissue) or your fist (for less severe tightness and pain) under the soft tissue of your hip and oscillate your leg back and forth (with the knee bent) to release this tight tissue. Deep breathing without leg oscillation is also effective at improving tissue tension and reducing nerve compression.
9. Frequent stretching of your affected leg not only feels good, but this peripheral input back into your central nervous system can directly impact your nerve pain and tension, bringing relief immediately and over time.
10. Improve your sitting posture throughout your spine to reduce overall neural tension. If you sit on the bony part of your butt at either the front of the chair or the back of the chair with your back positioned tall against the back rest is the best way to align your back, shoulders, and head and neck to reduce overall nerve tension and pull throughout the day.