Sciatica and Inversion Tables: Everything You Need to Know

A red bullseye over the sciatic pain area of a woman's back What you need to know about sciatica and inversion tables.

The pain that comes from sciatica is excruciating. However, there are things you can do to help relieve the pain so you can get back to living your life. Among your treatment options are medications, physical therapy, exercises and stretching, and inversion tables. But how do you know which one is right for you? Here is what you need to know about the signs and symptoms of sciatica, as well as a variety of treatments to ease your pain.

What is Sciatica?

Running from nerve roots of the spinal cord in the low back through the buttocks and down the leg, the sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the human body. Sciatica is the inflammation or irritation of the sciatic nerve. The result can be severe pain. While any type of irritation to the sciatic nerve can cause this painful condition, the most common include lumbar disc herniation and pinched nerves. Degenerative spinal arthritis, disc disease in the lumbar spine, a slipped disc, or other injuries to the lumbar spine can all cause sciatica. Sciatica can also result from more serious conditions, such as infections, tumors, or internal bleeding.

Any time you are experiencing new or troubling pain, you should contact your doctor. Physicians who can diagnose and treat sciatic nerve pain include primary care physicians, rheumatologists, and pain management specialists. Physical therapists and chiropractors can also manage sciatic pain. Always follow your doctor’s advice when it comes to treating your pain, as he or she is the one who is best equipped to give you reliable advice specific to your individual medical situation.

Sciatic nerve pain as indicated by a diagram showing the sciatic nerve in yello and the piriformis muscle in red on a human skeleton outline

Image: CC BY-SA 2.5 by Patrick J. Lynch via Wikimedia Commons

Sciatica Symptoms

The hallmark of sciatica is pain that begins in the lower back, runs through the buttock, and radiates down the leg. The pain can occur anywhere along the nerve pathway. It can feel like a dull ache, a sharp pain, or a burning sensation. Sciatica pain can be absolutely excruciating and can even feel like a jolt or electric shock. Patients with sciatic nerve irritation can also experience numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness. Usually, only one side of the body is affected, but sciatica can sometimes be bilateral.

Risk factors for sciatica can include advancing age, obesity, work that puts undue stress on the spine, prolonged sitting, and diabetes. Pregnancy can also result in irritation of the sciatic nerve. Most times, people suffering from this condition make a full recovery, but complications can result in long-term nerve injury.

While it isn’t always possible to prevent sciatica, it can help to protect your back by exercising regularly, using good body mechanics, and maintaining good body posture. You should contact a medical professional immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Loss of feeling in the affected leg or legs
  • Weakness in the leg or legs
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • If your pain began after a traumatic injury

Sciatica Treatment

There is only one thing that matters when you are suffering from sciatic nerve pain, and that is figuring how to treat it. There are a variety of options available.

Heat/ice: Alternating between hot and cold therapies can help relieve sciatic pain.

Medications: Over the counter pain medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories including ibuprofen and naproxen, can help manage pain from the sciatic nerve. Prescription medications, such as muscle relaxants, are also used to get this type of pain under control. In severe cases, narcotic pain relievers are used to treat sciatica.

Steroid injections: Epidural steroid injections can be used to treat the inflammation that is responsible for the pain of sciatica.

If you prefer to use alternative therapies, there are a number of treatment options available to you. These natural methods can also be combined with standard treatments to help you achieve even better results. Alternative treatments for sciatica include chiropractic adjustment, acupuncture, cognitive behavior therapy, and massage therapy. As always, follow your doctor’s recommendations when deciding which treatments are the best for your specific medical condition.

Sciatica Pain Relief

There are many products on the market today that are intended to ease sciatic nerve pain. While these items are a long way from a cure, they do help make living with the pain of sciatica at least a little more bearable. Here are a few of the popular products that will ease the pain of this condition.

1. Be-Active acupressure brace

Sciatica treatment

Be-Active Acupressure Brace via Amazon

This brace uses acupressure to relieve the radiating pain associated with inflammation and irritation of the sciatic nerve.

2. Soft Touch Lumbar Stretcher

Sciatica pain relief

Soft Touch Lumbar Stretcher via Amazon

The Soft Touch Lumbar Stretcher uses acupressure nubs to massage your back while you stretch away your sciatic nerve pain.

3. Sciatica Saddle Pillow

Sciatica pillow

Sciatica Saddle Pillow via Amazon

This pillow will help keep you comfortable and pain-free while sitting, even if you suffer from irritation of the sciatic nerve.

Sciatica Stretches

Stretching improves the pain of sciatica and provides the relief sufferers are so desperately searching for. This is an inexpensive way to treat your painful symptoms without the risk of side-effects from medications. Here are three stretches that will get your sciatic nerve pain under control.

Reclining pigeon pose

  1. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Raise your right leg while bending your knee.
  3. Lock your fingers behind your right knee.
  4. Place your right ankle on your left knee.
  5. Raise your left leg to deepen the stretch.
  6. Repeat on opposite side.

Sitting pigeon pose

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you.
  2. Bend right leg and place right ankle on left knee while remaining in upright position.
  3. Lean forward to deepen the stretch.
  4. Repeat on opposite side.

Knee to opposite shoulder

  1. Lie flat on your back on the floor with your legs straight.
  2. Pull right knee up to your chest, bending your leg at the knee.
  3. Wrap your hands around your bent knee.
  4. Pull your right knee towards your left shoulder.
  5. Repeat on opposite side.

Inversion Tables for Sciatica

When dealing with sciatica, one of the most useful tools at your disposal is an inversion table. By using an inversion table, you can put gravity to work for you and ease your pain naturally. Because inversion tables use the force of gravity to relieve compression in your spine, many people swear by this treatment option. As with any other therapy you choose to treat your sciatic nerve pain, make sure to discuss the use of an inversion table with your doctor before beginning. Innova makes inversion tables, we have a review of their ITX9800, here.

Inversion tables for sciatica symptoms

Innova ITX9600 Heavy Duty Inversion Table with Adjustable Headrest & Protective Cover via Amazon

Here are a few of the many benefits of using an inversion table to treat your sciatic pain:

  • Spinal decompression: Inversion tables reduce the pain and pressure surrounding the nerves, muscles, and discs affected by sciatica.
  • Improved circulation: This increases blood flow and promotes healing.
  • Stretches muscles: Provides relief to tight, painful muscles.
  • Relieves muscles spasms: Inversion tables are credited with preventing these painful spasms and relieving once they do occur.

Living Well with Sciatica

For more on how to use an inversion table, please check out our informative article, here.

Although it may sometimes feel like it, sciatica is not the end of the world. While it is true that the pain from an inflamed or irritated sciatic nerve can be excruciating, there are many treatment options available. Your doctor can help you decide which therapies are the best for your medical situation. Whether you prefer standard treatments or alternative options, the right solution for you and your pain is out there.

 

Featured image: CC 2.0 by Esther Max via Flickr

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