Senior Health and Wellness: Strategies to Deal With Sciatica Pain
A notable number of seniors suffer from sciatica and its associated pain. Sciatica is a condition that results when the sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in the body, is compressed or irritated. The sciatic nerve begins in the lower back and runs down each leg. Symptoms of sciatica can include pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness in the legs. The cause of sciatica is often difficult to determine but may be related to a herniated disk, spinal stenosis, or Piriformis syndrome.
There are 10 tips to consider and follow to aid a senior in dealing with sciatica pain:
Activity can help reduce pain and stiffness for a senior dealing with sciatica. Staying active is one of the best ways to combat sciatica pain. When you’re active, your body releases endorphins, which are natural painkillers. They work to block pain signals from your brain, helping to reduce the amount of pain you feel.
In addition to releasing endorphins, being active also helps improve your overall health. This is important, as having good health can help reduce your risk of developing sciatica in the first place. Activities like walking, swimming, and biking are all great options for those with sciatica.
If you’re not currently active, start slowly and work your way up. It’s important to listen to your body and not push yourself too hard. And if the pain gets worse or you experience any other symptoms, stop what you’re doing and consult with your doctor.
Ice Packs and Heat Packs
Ice packs can help reduce inflammation, while heat packs can help relieve muscle tension and stiffness for seniors suffering from sciatica. One of the most common ways to relieve sciatica pain suffered by an older individual is by using ice packs. Ice packs can help reduce inflammation and swelling around the sciatic nerve. They can also help numb the area and provide relief from pain.
There are a few different ways to use ice packs for sciatica relief. One way is to place an ice pack on the affected area for 10-15 minutes at a time. You can also use a cold water bottle or bag of frozen vegetables as an ice pack. Another way to use ice packs is to alternate between hot and cold treatments. For example, you can apply an ice pack for a few minutes, then apply a hot compress for a few minutes, and then repeat.
Heat packs are a natural way to reduce inflammation and ease the pain caused by sciatica in seniors. Applying a hot pack to the area where you’re experiencing pain can help improve blood flow and provide much-needed relief.
You can buy heat packs at most pharmacies or drug stores, or you can make your own by filling a sock with uncooked rice and microwaving it for a few minutes. Be sure to test the heat of the pack before applying it to your skin, and never apply a pack that’s too hot.
Over-The-Counter Pain Medications
If you are a senior experiencing sciatica pain, there are a few over-the-counter medications that you can take to help relieve the pain. NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, are effective at reducing inflammation and pain. Acetaminophen is also a good choice for pain relief and doesn’t have the same risks associated with NSAIDs. Finally, if you are experiencing severe pain, you may want to consider taking a prescription medication such as tramadol or oxycodone.
Talk to your doctor if you are considering taking one of these medications, as they may not be appropriate for everyone. You will also want to make sure that pain medications for sciatica do not conflict with other meds you may already be taking.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises can help promote relaxation and relieve stress, which can aggravate sciatica symptoms. These are examples of relaxation techniques that work well for seniors who suffer from sciatica:
- Progressive muscle relaxation: This technique involves systematically tensing and relaxing all of the muscles in your body. Start with your feet and work your way up to your head. Tense each muscle for five seconds, then relax for 10 seconds.
- Deep breathing: When you’re feeling anxious or stressed, deep breathing can help to calm and relax your body. Place one hand on your stomach and inhale deeply, feeling your stomach rise as you breathe in. Hold for a few seconds, then exhale slowly. Repeat until you feel more relaxed.
- Visualization: This technique involves picturing yourself in a calm, peaceful place. It can be helpful to close your eyes and focus on all of the details of the scene, from the colors to the smells. Allow yourself to relax into the image and hold it for as long as you like.
Getting regular massages can help relieve pain suffered by a senior with sciatica. Massages can help improve flexibility and circulation, which may help relieve sciatica pain. You can obtain professional massages or even undertake this process on your own.
You can use both hands to massage each side of your spine, starting at the top and working your way down. Make sure to massage all the muscles in your back, including your shoulders and neck.
When you reach your lower back, use both hands to rub in a circular motion. You can also use your fingers to massage the area around your sciatic nerve. This nerve runs down the back of your leg, and massaging it can help to relieve the pain.
Finish by rubbing your feet and legs. This will help to relax all the muscles in your body and can help to reduce the pain from sciatica.
Shoes that are too tight or heels that are too high can aggravate sciatica symptoms. Many people find relief from sciatica by wearing proper shoes. The reality is that seniors need to pay attention to the shoes they select to wear for a variety of reasons.
Shoes that are designed to support the arch and heel can help to take pressure off of the sciatic nerve. Shoes with a rigid sole and a moderate heel height are often recommended for people with sciatica.
If you are suffering from sciatica, it is important to wear shoes that will provide you with the support you need. Shoes with a rigid sole and moderate heel height can help to take pressure off of the sciatic nerve and provide relief from pain.
Stretching can help improve flexibility and range of motion, which may relieve some of the discomfort associated with sciatica. There are a few different stretches you can do to help relieve the pain:
The first stretch is called the cat-cow stretch. To do this stretch, you start on all fours with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. Then, you slowly arch your back up like a cat and then lower it like a cow. You want to hold each position for about five seconds before moving on to the next one.
The second stretch is called the hamstring stretch. To do this stretch, you stand with one foot in front of the other and bend your forward leg at the knee. You then reach down, grab your hamstring with your hand, and pull it up towards your butt. You want to hold this position for about 30 seconds before switching legs.
The third stretch is called the piriformis stretch. To do this stretch, you lie on your back with both legs flat on the ground. You then cross one leg over the other and using your hand, pull the knee of the crossed leg towards your chest. You want to hold this position for about 30 seconds before switching legs.
Sleep on your side or stomach if possible. Sleeping on your back can put pressure on the spine and worsen sciatica symptoms.
Sleeping on your back can aggravate sciatica pain. One way to relieve the pain is to sleep on your side. Sleeping on your side can be a helpful way to reduce sciatica pain. When you sleep on your side, you reduce the amount of pressure on your spine. This can help to relieve the pain. You may also want to try placing a pillow between your legs to keep your spine in alignment.
Avoid Sitting for Extended Periods of Time
Sitting puts pressure on the spine and can aggravate sciatica symptoms. One way to help relieve the pain is to avoid sitting for long periods of time. When you’re sitting, the discs in your spine are compressed, which can aggravate the symptoms of sciatica. Try to get up and move around every hour or so to help stretch out your back and relieve the pressure on your discs. You may also want to consider using a lumbar cushion or pillow to support your lower back when you’re sitting.
If you’re unable to stand up and walk around every hour, try doing some light stretching exercises or walking in place for a few minutes. Moving around will help keep the blood flowing and reduce the chances of developing any further discomfort. If the pain is severe or doesn’t go away after a few days, be sure to talk to your doctor about other possible treatments.
See a Doctor
A senior with sciatica should see a doctor if you have any of the following situations exist:
- Pain that doesn’t go away after a few weeks
- Pain that is severe and constant
- Pain that keeps you from sleeping or doing your normal activities
- Loss of bladder control
- Loss of bowel control
Surgery for Sciatica
Finally, if you’re a senior suffering from sciatica, you may be considering surgery as an option to relieve your pain. Surgery may be recommended if other treatments haven’t helped relieve your symptoms.
There are several different types of surgery that may be recommended for sciatica. One is called a lumbar laminectomy, which is a procedure to remove the lamina (the roof of the spinal canal) to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve. Another is called a lumbar discectomy, which is a procedure to remove a herniated disk that’s pressing on the nerve.
Before deciding whether surgery is right for you, be sure to discuss all your options with your doctor. He or she can help you decide if surgery is likely to help relieve your symptoms and what type of surgery would be best for you.