Tips for easing sciatica / back pain at home?
June 21, 2018 3:47 PM   Subscribe

What things actually worked or helped ease sciatica or lower back pain from home? Stretches? Heat? Massages? YANMD

I'm fairly sure I'm having a sciatica flare. I have endometriosis and IBS (and slight scoliosis.) I've had sciatica type pain before around/during my period but it's never been this bad or this long.

YANMD - I will see my doctor if it doesn't let up. However I'm not able to GO to a massage or physical therapy as I'm disabled so I need things I can do at home.

It was so painful a few days ago I nearly went to the ER as my leg gave out multiple times - then it eased up - now it's coming back again and shooting pain and even upsetting my stomach.

What things can I do at home to ease this?
Posture? Stretches? Ice? Heat? Massages my husband can do? Icy hot?

So far Motrin and heat maybe take the edge off but that's about it.
posted by Crystalinne to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I try to do gentle cat-cow exercises, including a variation where I look (gently!) over each shoulder to the corresponding hip, roll out my glutes with a foam roller, do a kind of extreme happy baby yoga pose to really massage my lower back with the ground, load up on turmeric and CBD, heating pad for twenty minutes or so every two hours. I also find that moving helps things feel better faster, so depending on your mobility maybe take a lap around your house or backyard, and try not to stay in one position (sitting, standing, etc.) for too long. You have my sympathies, it's the worst!
posted by stellaluna at 3:57 PM on June 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Lie on your back with your knees elevated.
posted by Carol Anne at 4:09 PM on June 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

Lie on your back with your knees elevated. Using a pillow like this can make it easier than creating a stack. Alternating heating pad and ice packs as well.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:21 PM on June 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

The exercises for lower back pain in the book Pain Free by Pete Egoscue helped me get out of the worst episode of sciatica I'd had in 15 years of chronic back pain. Six weeks in I started the exercises, and less than a week later I found myself realizing it was 4pm and I hadn't taken a Vicodin all day, and not because I was toughing through it but because I hadn't noticed the pain all day.

I wound up visiting one of their in-person clinics, and am so glad I did. It's been years now and I've been slacking off terribly recently on doing my maintenance exercises, but I haven't had a recurrence of sciatica or pain beyond the "oof, getting stiff" level since.
posted by Lexica at 4:27 PM on June 21, 2018 [8 favorites]

My brother suffers from sciatica, and when I briefly thought I had the same problem, the main thing he recommended was the following: "Go in the shower and turn on the water as hot as you can stand it, and apply it towards the area that is causing the most pain." I hope that helps, and that the pain subsides soon.
posted by DavidfromBA at 4:33 PM on June 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

I had sciatica for almost 6 months after being treated for pernicious anemia, and during this time I had a bloody nose most mornings with quite a bit of discharge, and some post nasal drip during the day.

Nothing really helped, but one night I had a dream about brains crashing into each other, bursting open and then leaking. I didn't think much of the dream, but I thought my nasal problems might be a sinus infection and got some antibiotics for it.

The bloody nose was gone the next morning, and by the end of the day after that the sciatica was also gone, never to return.

My interpretation of all these circumstances is that a sinus infection high in my nose breached membranes thinned by the pernicious anemia and caused a CSF leak; a consequent collapse of the channel full of CSF which runs down the center of the spinal cord caused the sciatic nerve to rub against its outlet from the spine, and that resulted in sciatica.

I thought this might be relevant to you because you have a pituitary tumor, and CSF leaks are a known possible complication of pituitary tumors.
posted by jamjam at 4:34 PM on June 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Sit on a low stool or chair; your feet need to be firm and flat on the floor. Put one ankle onto the opposite knee and lean forward gently to stretch. The leg you want to bend first/most is the one with the worst sciatica although it helps to do each leg in turn.

Take a tennis ball (or other firm ball; I have one like this expressly for this purpose) and place it under your butt cheek on the floor. Roll it around under your butt cheek until you find the sore spot, then rest as much of your weight as you reasonably can (without screaming in pain, that is) on the sore spot until it feels like it loosens a bit. Follow this with a more gentle pressure on the ball in the vicinity of the sore spot. Repeat on the other side.

Each of these approaches can and should be done frequently - every hour or two until you feel much better.
posted by DrGail at 4:52 PM on June 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

I alternate ice and heat. It’s cyclical and when I twist funny

When it’s from twisting funny, I actually drive around the neighborhood for about half an hour to unpinch it. Something about the recumbent seat makes it pop baxk.
posted by tilde at 5:29 PM on June 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have been amazed at how well this one move helped.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:45 PM on June 21, 2018 [4 favorites]

I have had amazing success with 15 minute exercise videos on MommaStrong (lame name, excellent physical therapy). It’s $2/month for unlimited access, and she has sciatica-specific videos for now and general strength videos for later.

I have tried all kinds of stretching, physical therapy, posture-work, meditation, etc. for my back pain (see my posting history for my posts asking for help), but MommaStrong stuff has stuck and is actually working for me. It’s got a post-partum focus but the advice and videos are golden.
posted by Maarika at 5:45 PM on June 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

Backward bends work for me. Lie face down on a yoga mat, place hands in pushup position, push up but keep hips on floor, legs relaxed. Breathe out on the way up, breath in on the way down. You can do the same thing but not quite as effective by standing, lean pelvis against a kitchen counter, place hands on back of hips, bend back as far as you can, while breathing out, then breathe in while straightening up. Repeat 10 or 12 times, whether standing or on the floor, and repeat the whole thing morning, noon and night.

Alternate cold and hot packs are great also. Do that three times a day or more, if possible. But start with cold only for three days, as described here.
posted by beagle at 5:52 PM on June 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

I semi-frequently pinch my sciatic nerve if I spend too many hours sitting at my desk. Did it yesterday, in fact. Results in pain in one buttock, one thigh, and that side of my lower back. A stretch that helps me: Lie on your back. Bring the knee on the affected side to your chest, and then wrap your arms around it and gently pull it towards the opposite shoulder, just until you feel a pleasant stretch in the side of the affected buttock. Hold for as long as it feels good (at least a count of 10, maybe longer), then release. Repeat several times.

It seems to relieve pain in the moment, and to help the nerve irritation resolve faster.

Also, Ben-Gay or Icy Hot, plus gentle self-massage of the affected area as you apply it. (I also want to try @DrGail’s tennis ball massage method!)
posted by snowmentality at 6:04 AM on June 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have found the McKenzie method to be very effective for the specific problems that I have had with my back. My problems did cause pain going down into my leg on one side of my body.

I recommend trying the rescue exercises in this video. Generally an improvement using this method would be any pain moving higher up your leg, moving from your leg into your back or moving towards the middle. My progression was that pain moved up my leg into my hip, then into my lower back and eventually disappeared.

If your back pain improves after using these exercises a few times over the course of a day, I would recommend to keep using the exercises and maybe look into buying McKenzie's book on Amazon. It has other exercises that you can try. If you don't see improvement using the exercises, than you probably have a different problem and should try something else.

There are also physical therapists who have been trained on the method.
posted by jefeweiss at 6:05 AM on June 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

Only 2 things helped me at home (without physical therapy) aside from drugs: a back brace and ice. Mostly the ice.
posted by zennie at 10:53 AM on June 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thirding, as it were, lying on your back with your knees elevated. I go for a 90 degree angle, lying on hardwood floors, calves resting on a coffee table with a pillow on it. Pillows under my head, reading material or laptop on my belly. Stay there for hours.

Used to have debilitating sciatica. At its worst, I couldn't feel or move half of my toes on one foot and could barely move the calf on that side (no chance of standing on tip toes). Was certainly forced to call in sick as my job requires a lot of mobility. Since I learned this technique I've been doing it at the first signs of discomfort and haven't had any serious pain in the past five years.

YMMV, of course.
posted by booooooze at 2:28 PM on June 22, 2018

How old is your mattress?

I injured my back last fall, which entailed some sciatic pain, and had to take three months of short-term disability leave, during which I had weekly physical therapy and otherwise stayed in bed on a heating pad. As soon as I went back to work and stopped PT, I injured my back again and the sciatica was worse than ever. Went back to PT, and therapist recommended doing certain stretches, including Cobra pose described above, and that helped.

But what made the daily waking up in sciatic pain stop was getting rid of my 12-year-old mattress and replacing it with a new medium-firm foam one. I loved my old mattress and it was still comfortable, but the difference with the new one is like night and day. If your mattress is relatively new, try sleeping on a different one for a few nights - I slept on the twin bed in my guest room/office for a few days and noticed an immediate difference. Try an inflatable if you don't have a spare bed.

Also, be like a cat: stretch everything before you get out of bed.

Also, if you sleep on your side, try sleeping with a pillow between your thighs.
posted by caryatid at 4:09 PM on June 22, 2018

I had terrible sciatica pain about ten years ago, and the stretch that seemed to help the most, and helps when I feel twinges of pain now, is the supine twist. Also, lying on the floor, knees bent, and pressing my lower back into the floor, holding for ten seconds or so, and relaxing -- repeat that a bunch of times.

Also, ice, and physical therapy.
posted by sarcasticah at 11:33 AM on June 23, 2018

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