Experienced by many people around the world and even famous people like Johnny Depp and Debbie Allen, Sciatica can be so painful, it can be difficult even to walk. There are many treatment options out there and it can be overwhelming and frustrating when you have been suffering from pain for weeks or even months without answers. Severe sciatica pain is no stranger to me and it took months before coming across a treatment that actually helped. If nothing else, I hope you take away from this article the option of lumbar traction as a tool at your disposal in case you haven’t already come across it in your research. In my case, lumber traction was the key to reaching my full recovery from sciatica pain so I believe it is worth mentioning right away so that everyone gets a chance to know about it before taking on surgery or giving into chronic pain. Depending on what stage you are in, aside from traction, there are different exercises, stretches, and therapies to do as you work towards full sciatica pain relief.
Sciatica Pain Relief with Lumbar Traction
Let me start by sharing with you the usefulness of lumbar traction for sciatica pain relief. It is a tool I wished I had known about long before six months into my sciatic nerve pain. It was a tool I had no idea existed and this is why I feel it is so important to mention it right away. It is the safest way of stretching out your lower spine when done with the guidance of a physiotherapist. Pictured below is the Saunders Lumbar Traction unit that can be purchased by the patient to be used at home (for purchasing options click here). By strapping into this unit and pumping up the pressure with a hand-held pump you can actually pull apart your vertebrae and stretch your deep spinal muscles.
This form of deep stretch creates more space for compressed discs and nerves in the spine to be released, thus, the sciatic nerve is less pinched and can have a better chance to heal. Your physiotherapist will have to advise you when you will be ready to start using lumbar traction and the amount of pressure to apply so talk to your physiotherapist like I did. Amazingly, I noticed sciatica pain relief after the first use and after a few weeks my physiotherapist was amazed at my increase in flexibility and no complaint of lower back or leg pain. Now that I am fully recovered and it’s been years since I had sciatica I find this great for releasing stress in my lower back when I come home from a long shift at work. Avoiding surgery was the best thing I could ever do for myself because I was told by my surgeon that I consulted that I would increase my chances of getting arthritis in my back when I’m older if I went through with the surgery.
The Saunders Lumbar Traction unit has been proven to be an alternative to back surgery and it sure was for me. Before I had a chance to find out about lumbar traction I was so frustrated with not reaching full sciatica pain relief that I was considering surgery. It was lumbar traction that got me past my plateau and gave me the hope I needed to look forward to doing the activities I loved to do before. I was so excited when my physiotherapist told me that I could now go back to skiing or horseback riding because all this time he was telling me I could never ski or ride a horse again in my life! That’s when I felt normal again. Surgery in some cases is necessary like when symptoms get so severe that is affects your bladder or bowel control or sexual performance. This is an emergency situation to take seriously and seek medical attention right away. In many cases herniated discs recover without any medical intervention but if non-surgical treatment has not improved the symptoms within 6 weeks then surgery can be discussed with your doctor. However, most doctors and surgeons tend to advise their patients to try their best to avoid surgery because of the complications, risks and future limitations. The different types of surgeries available to you typically are open discectomy, endoscopic microdiscectomy, percutaneous discectomy, laminotomy, and laminectomy. Each of these types of surgeries attempt the same thing of going in and removing the tissue that is impinging on your nerves in your spine. Some are less invasive than others.
Physiotherapy for Sciatica
In my experience, it is important to find a well versed physiotherapist. Unfortunately though, the first experience I had with a physiotherapist was not great and I felt in more pain after the first treatment so I turned to chiropractic. Trying chiropractic for a few weeks started to get too expensive and I wasn’t making progress, in fact, my leg got weaker and the pain was so great I could not walk for longer than a minute. I was then convinced by a friend to visit her physiotherapist that was trained in Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS) and that became something he used often on my tight sore muscles. IMS is a “magical” treatment for knotted sore muscles that just can’t be resolved with massage therapy. Using long acupuncture needles, the physiotherapist trained in IMS will gently insert the needle into the heart of the muscle, the muscle instantly cramps up as it grasps the needle, then relaxes. Targeting tight muscles in your lower back, buttock, and affected leg muscles is going to make it much easier to do stretches and regain flexibility lost by sciatica.
Stretches for Sciatica Pain Relief
There are a few key stretches that you can start doing gradually and these are typically shown to the patient by their physiotherapist. Following stretches regularly is going to increase your flexibility, relax tight muscles, and reduce compression of your nerve.
Start on all fours then cross one foot in front of the other. Now gradually lower down by bringing your back leg out further while keeping your upper torso supported with your hands.
Key Strengthening Exercises
Sitting, Bending, and Sleeping without Pain
Sciatica causes relentless pain that can keep you up at night, make it difficult to put on socks or shoes, and make sitting at your desk impossible. To make your life a lot easier here are some great alternative ways of getting on with your day without increasing your sciatic pain too much.
Consider getting a simple lower back brace that goes on and tightens with Velcro straps. This will teach you proper posture and proper bending technique to prevent you from rounding your lower back. It is great when you are on your feet all day and find yourself doing a lot of bending.
When leaning forwards to work over something always bend from the hips by sticking your bottom out so you don’t round your back at all. If going to pick something up, whether heavy or not, always keep a straight back as you bend down with your knees to lower down to the floor. Lift with your legs and never your back.
Sciatica Pain Relief While Sitting
Anytime you are sitting, either at work or while watching TV, grab either a small pillow or a rolled up towel to put behind your lower back. This will encourage your natural lumbar curve and take a whole lot of pressure off your bottom.
Finding your Sleep Position
I used several different positions and you will have to try them out to see what will help you. Using two extra pillows, I would have one between my knees and one very small one under my side just above my hip when I was sleeping on my side. When sleeping on my back it helped sometimes to bend my legs up and rest them on a couple big pillows. Most of the time, however, I liked to sleep on my belly with a thin pillow under my hips.
Majority of new sciatica pain cases will recover within 6 weeks. A small number develop chronic sciatica after long-term nerve damage. That is why it is important to start taking care of your back and seek sciatica pain relief sooner than later.
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