Having suffered from sciatica pain for several years, I’m happy to say that it has been five years since my last knockdown, drag-out flare up and I’m working proactively to keep it that way. Now don’t get me wrong; Ms. Sciatica has tried to clear her painful throat a few times, but when she did I knew it was because I had slacked on my preventive protocol. Just one “Ahem” from Ms. Sciatica was enough to get me back on track.
What Am I Doing to Keep My Sciatica Pain at Bay?
Well, I’m doing quite a few things.
Sciatica Pain Relief Tool #1: Hydration
First of all, I’m staying hydrated. Dehydration for sciatica sufferers can bring on an attack. Healthy spinal discs are well hydrated. Chronic dehydration causes the spinal discs to lose their healthy full-fluid sponginess. The more dehydrated the discs become, the increased likelihood of back troubles. Check out Dr. Sebastian Lattuga’s blog post Disc vs. Dehydration, Don’t Risk It.
Sciatica Pain Relief Tool #2: Antioxidants – Vitamin C
I make sure to keep my body saturated with as many antioxidants as I can. I try to get the majority of my antioxidants from foods. To that end, I eat plenty of green leafy veggies, colorful berries and take vitamin C. I take far fewer vitamin C capsules now than I had in the past. I also switched from synthetic vitamin C to Pure Radiance vitamin C made by the Pure Synergy Company. They use natural, non-synthetic forms of vitamin C and my stomach seems to like it much better.
To quote from one of my favorite Doctors of Nutrition, Dr. Andrew Saul, “long-term inadequacy of vitamin C causes weak spinal disks.” Vitamin C helps in the production of collagen. Low levels of collagen contribute to unhealthy spinal discs. It is my goal to help my discs become and remain healthy so I try to maintain adequate antioxidant and vitamin C levels.
Sciatica Pain Relief Tool #3: Lower Back Nodule Massage
I found out that the little nodule on my lower back to the right of my spine is referred to as the back mouse. While my back mouse doesn’t bother me 98% of the time, I find that massaging it on the rare 2% of the time when Ms. Sciatica starts clearing her throat makes things feel better.
Sciatica Pain Relief Tool #4: Electronic Stimulation
When my chiropractor recommended purchasing a TENS unit, I jumped on it. I didn’t realize just how much relief it would provide. When I feel twinges of the tell-tale sciatica tightness, I zap it with the TENS unit. It usually only takes one 30 minute session to set things straight.
Sciatica Pain Relief Tool #5: Back Decompression
I have a simple and not so simple method of decompressing my back. The simple method is my kitchen counter. I place both hands on the kitchen counter and lift as much of my weight as I can. I’m too tall to lift my feet off the ground, but by leaning slightly forward, I’m able to take quite a bit of weight off of my lower body. Doing this helps to stretch my back. The trick is to relax the back muscles while shifting weight to the arms/hands to decompress the back.
The not so simple method for decompressing my back is an inversion table. Yes, I went online and purchased the Ironman 4000 inversion table. It does wonders for my back, but my ankles aren’t so fond of it. With inversion tables, you must start slow and very slowly increase the incline and duration of time spent on the inversion table. I think I might have increased both the incline and amount of time too quickly as my ankles got angry. I didn’t want to shift anger from my back to my ankles, so I took time off from the inversion table for my ankles to recover. In the meanwhile, I’ve been using the kitchen counter method.
FYI, both methods have gotten the nod of approval from my chiropractor. As a matter of fact, I believe the back decompression method has reduced the frequency of my chiropractic visits. Prior to implementing my back decompression practice, I made 3 visits to the chiropractor. Since I purchased the inversion table in late April and began implementing the decompression practice, I’ve only had 1 chiropractic visit and that visit was because I did something to my neck.
Sciatica Pain Relief Tool #6: Proteolytic Enzymes
I believe I’ve written about them before. If not, here’s the scoop. Proteolytic enzymes are great for pain and inflammation. They’re my ibuprofen replacement. They’re gentle on the stomach and instead of negative side effects, they have positive side benefits.
I started out with bromelain/papain and eventually switched to natto/serrapeptase. I only switched because I had a difficult time finding the bromelain/papain at a reasonable price. For some reason, my capsules doubled and then tripled in price so I opted for a less expensive alternative. Enter Doctor’s Best Natto Serrapeptase. I take a few proteolytic enzymes several times a day for a day or two to knock out any pain or swelling.
Sciatica Pain Relief Tool #7: Magnesium
I have a transdermal spray of magnesium that I put on every day after I shower. I spray it all over and then follow it up with my usual lotions. Early on I took oral magnesium, but I found that over time I got tired of taking capsules and opted for the transdermal method instead. According to Dr. Sircus, oral magnesium takes about a year to “top off” a depleted magnesium condition while transdermally takes about 2 or 3 months.
I haven’t been to a doctor to have them test my magnesium levels, but the body has its own regulating system. If I take too much magnesium orally, I’ll have a very upfront and personal relationship with the bathroom. If I spray too much magnesium transdermally, my body will take what it needs and not absorb the rest. Gotta love the magnificence of the human body.
Sitting at the computer all day is asking for a sciatica flare-up. I use walking and rebounding on a mini-trampoline as my exercises of choice (I use the JumpSport model 250). That followed with a few minutes of stretching exercises has been keeping things fluid and pain-free.
In summary, my routine seems like a lot, but if you’ve ever had a full-blown sciatica attack, you’ll do whatever it takes to avoid having another one. Recently things have been very quiet for me so I haven’t been decompressing my back daily (although I probably should). Also, the TENS unit is used on an as-needed basis. I really haven’t had the need to use it for quite some time. I do, however, keep hydrated, eat properly, take vitamin C, spritz with magnesium and engage in mild forms of exercise/stretching daily. As such I haven’t had to pull out the big guns. The big gun in my case is my chiropractor.
In my last flare-up 5 years ago it took several months of working with my chiropractor to feel good again. The further down the sciatica road you go, the longer it takes to get back on the right track. I do what I do in order not to go down that road again!
Sciatica Pain Relief Tool #9: Prevention is Key
Prevention is important not only with sciatica, but with any condition that compromises the body. Instead of giving your power over to a doctor and pharmaceutical company, why not educate yourself. It will take time, effort, experimentation and help from professionals other than the traditional family doctor before you get things right, but once you get things right it’s golden!
Update 8/2/18: Still free from sciatica pain!
Another Update 1/23/20: Still free from sciatica pain!