Life is rapidly changing! No surprise this can cause an increase in sciatic pain (also known as Sciatica) due to new home office settings, changing daily patterns and increased stress. Any of these three factors alone can cause sciatic pain!
Before I tell you how best to reduce sciatica while working from home, let me highlight that I am an orthopedic board certified doctor of physical therapy and a 20 year experienced specialist in low back pain. I use the most up-to-date lower back pain research to validate my recommendations, so sit back and get ready to get way more comfortable because I’m about to tell you how to get rid of sciatic pain!
First: Knowledge! A bit of what sciatica is, and is not, will help you stay positive about getting rid of it. Sciatica is a set of symptoms caused by irritation of a nerve. If you do not have pain or tingling in the calf, you likely have just low back pain without sciatica, which is a bit easier to fix. If you had sciatica, including calf pain, and now just have low back pain without calf pain, you are moving in the right direction of healing!
Ok, so whether you have true sciatica or not, doesn’t matter because you can fix it either way. So what do we do about it? Here are the top 5 best ways to reduce sciatica and get low back pain relief at home:
- Sleep Well
The science is clear: During sleep is when we heal and one of the most powerful things you can do to fix sciatica is improve your sleep. A 2019 study shows lack of sleep impairs the brain’s natural mechanisms for relieving pain (1).
Powerfully effective tips include sleeping the hours your body truly needs, finding the most comfortable mattress and pillow, use blackout shades or an eye mask, and not using phone or TV prior to bed.
- Proper Stretches for Sciatica Relate to Which Movement Hurts:
Not all stretches for sciatica are for everybody! This is why generalized stretching can sometimes make people hurt more. To get more specific to your sciatic needs, first test both of these 2 options and choose one:
- Feels better when stomach lying and lightly pressing body up OR standing and, placing hands on low back and doing little backbends (see FIG-1)
- Feels better when sitting (or standing) and reaching for my toes
If you chose “A,” your stretch is to pull knees to chest, either one or both and either sitting or lying on your back. 10 reps, throughout your day, as needed.
If you chose “B,” you’d likely benefit from stretching slightly backwards, as pictured in FIG-1. 10 reps, throughout your day, as needed. This will be your best “go to” stretch for relieving sciatica and low back pain at home!
- Self-Massage Helps With Self Healing
Those who can afford to have a massage therapist on call for low back pain episodes are lucky. For the rest of us, we need an effective way to self massage, as this has been shown to have an immediate pain relief effect.
Introduce the Vibe Roller. This compact, ergonomically shaped, vibrating tool has changed the game in self myofascial release/massage and muscle activation.
What does this tool do? The Vibe Roller loosens and relaxes back muscles via massage and vibration, and pumps blood to the healing sciatic nerve, allowing you to continue sitting in that work chair for 8 hours a day. Self myofascial release and vibration are effective pain management tools with no negative side effects. Although taking breaks from your chair to use Vibe Roller would be recommended, on deadline days, use the tool while continuing to sit and work. It’s compact and travels well, versatile, comfortable and effective. And it’s quick: I’d recommend a few minutes, several times a day to see a profound effect.
- Hot Vs Cold for Sciatica and Low Back Pain. Who Wins?
Here is the deal: The research supports using heat over ice, but you should use whichever you like the most, including alternating if that feels good. No wrong answers here! Invest is a large $15-20 ice and/or heat pack that covers the entire low back. If ice suits you best, consider having two so one is always ice cold and ready. Use for 15-20 minutes, throughout the day as needed, including while in your work chair. This is a cheap, easy and safe way to remarkably reduce your sciatic and low back pain at home.
- Healing Must Include a Mind-Body Connection
Don’t think of sciatic pain as just in your back or leg. Pain is also in our brains and we can quickly heal that part too! In fact, the research shows those who work on the mind-body connection have better outcomes with sciatica and back pain in general. Here are 2 places to get started with this at home:
- Start with 5 minutes of meditation or, at least, quiet time with no distractions. We're all running so fast, we don’t stop for a minute to “check in” with the body. Do this to start connecting the mind with the body.
- Think positive. Sounds cliché but it’s so true, it must be mentioned. If you believe you’ll fix your sciatica, and you will, you have a much better chance at succeeding. Research shows if people carry this belief, what’s actually physically wrong inside them matters much less (ie severe nerve or disc injury). Now doesn’t that show the power of the mind?
Implementing the above 5 strategies, all supported by the research, will give you a profound advantage on curtailing and reversing your sciatica and/or low back pain at home. Seeking professional help in the way of physical therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture or massage is always encouraged but first, implement the above techniques. You will likely find a great strategy that, at least, greatly minimizes your need for professional help if not completely fix your pain.
- Krause AJ, Prather AA, Wager TD, Lindquist MA, Walker MP. The Pain of Sleep Loss: A Brain Characterization in Humans. Journal of Neuroscience. 2019, 39 (12): 2291-2300.