Your sciatic nerve starts in your spinal cord and is the largest nerve in your body. It travels through the hips, glutes, and down the back of both legs. Sciatica pain is the result of a herniated disc in the lower back. Spinal stenosis can lead to sciatica and back pain, the narrowing of space between the spine puts pressure on spinal cord nerves causing painful compression pain. Sciatica pain can make it difficult to get comfortable and fall asleep but relief is available through medications, surgery, holistic, and alternative remedies.
Sciatic pain is often caused by a herniated disc
What Causes Sciatica Pain?
Sciatic pain is often caused by a herniated disc, spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spine), or osteophytes (bone spur from joint damage). Compression in the lower back nerves causes inflammation and pinching. Injury to the sciatic nerve creates pain in the lower back and down the back of the legs. This can occur suddenly from an abrupt injury or slowly over time from an illness such as arthritis in the spine.
Sciatica Treatment Options
Pain relief medications are typically the first treatment for sciatica pain such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. Other medications include muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatories, tricyclic antidepressants for lower back pain. A short dose of steroids may be prescribed too before moving to a long-term treatment plan. Medicated patches that contain lidocaine can provide a numbing effect on the lower back and could be beneficial for a good night’s sleep.
Exercise may be the last thing people think of when in pain but a physical therapist will gently guide you through a tailored treatment plan to recovery. Once your pain has reached a manageable phase a physical therapist will work on your posture, strengthen your back muscles, and help you regain flexibility.
Some people find relief in corticosteroid (steroid injections) that is injected around the nerve roots in the back and wears off in roughly 12 weeks. This anti-inflammatory can offer short-term relief as the risk of serious side effects increases with every injection.
Surgery for sciatica pain is often reserved for extreme cases such as when the patient is suffering from loss of bowel and bladder control, or when pain is not responding to medication or other remedies. The bone spur or the problematic part of the herniated disc is removed by the surgeon, releasing pressure on the pinched nerve.
Holistic Remedies and Alternative Medicine
- Yoga and stretching
- Hot/cold packs
- Chiropractic adjustments
- A warm bath
- Sleeping with a body pillow
- Nirgundi herb for joint pain, anti-inflammatory, and eases anxiety
Best Sleeping Positions for Sciatica Pain
Sleep on the Floor
Some people love to sleep on the floor and swear it alleviates their back pain and helps them sleep better. If not brave enough to ditch the mattress, consider upgrading to a pressure-relieving medium firm mattress. A more firm mattress is advised for those with back pain but it is important not to feel as if you are sleeping on the pavement. This is where a pressure-relieving mattress makes all the difference. It gently supports every curve of your body while providing valuable spine alignment to those suffering sciatic pain.
Sleeping on your side could bring the most relief from sciatica pain. A pillow between the knees aligns the hips and a quality pillow under your head will ensure your spine is aligned. If you are a back sleeper put a pillow under your knees for added comfort but try and become a side sleeper as this offers many health benefits such as easing snoring, heartburn, and acid reflux.
Sleeping in the fetal position could be beneficial for some as it may create some space between the vertebrae, relieving some sciatic pain. If you find this position uncomfortable, try sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees or on your back with a pillow under your knees.
Sciatica can occur during pregnancy as an expanding uterus may put pressure on the sciatic nerve
Sciatica in Pregnancy
Sciatica can occur during pregnancy as an expanding uterus may put pressure on the sciatic nerve. To ease symptoms, try some gentle yoga or have a massage. Take regular walk breaks if working at a desk all day, enjoy a warm bath, use a foam roller, or consult with your medical professionals for advice on over-the-counter remedies suitable for pregnant women.
How to Relieve Sciatica Pain When Sleeping
- Upgrade to a pressure-relieving mattress (medium or firm)
- Do not sleep on a soft mattress
- Put a sheet of plywood under your mattress (not needed if you have upgraded to a new pressure-relieving mattress)
- Use a body pillow in bed to add comfort to all sleep positions
- Stomach sleepers should sleep on their side or back as sleeping on your stomach can exacerbate back pain
- Take a hot bath to ease muscle tension before bed
- Take gentle exercise every day to strengthen muscles
- Take note of the best sleeping position for sciatica such as side and back sleeping
Sciatic pain from a herniated disc is one of the most uncomfortable and painful experiences but thankfully treatable. The first step is to see your doctor immediately and get started on a tailored treatment plan. This may involve medication, steroid injections, surgery, seeing a physical therapist, or holistic remedies. Upgrading your mattress to a pressure-relieving foam or firm hybrid could aid your recovery from sciatica pain. A too-soft mattress creates more back pain as it causes the spine to curve as you sleep, a pressure-relieving mattress aids spine alignment, improves sleep quality, and is more beneficial to overall physical health.
What Does Sciatica Pain Feel Like?
Sciatica pain is often described as a sharp shooting pain that starts in the lower back and radiates down the legs. Your sciatica nerve can be damaged from a sudden accident or be the result of arthritis in the spine. Sciatic pain can be relieved with over-the-counter medication, surgery, physical therapy, or holistic remedies.
How to Sleep With Sciatica?
Sleeping with back pain may seem impossible but there are some sleep positions that can offer some relief. Sleeping on your side with a strategically placed body pillow behind your back and between your knees can offer much comfort. Sleeping on a pressure-relieving medium firm mattress is ideal for easing sciatica pain.
Can I Sleep on the Floor With Sciatica Pain?
Some people treat their sciatica pain by sleeping on the floor, believing that sleeping on the hardest surface is best for back pain. But, sleeping on a pressure-relieving medium firm mattress could be a more comfortable alternative than throwing your bed away. A cooling mattress that cradles the body and aligns the spine could aid better sleep with sciatic pain.