That pain radiating throughout your lower back, into your hips and buttocks, and down the back of your leg is most likely sciatica, an inflammatory response most often caused when a bone spur or a herniated disc compresses the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the single longest nerve in the human body.
At any point in time, between one and ten percent of the American population is suffering from sciatica. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, sciatica and other types of back pain are responsible for 62 percent of all work absences caused by pain.
Alternative Treatments for Sciatica
Acupuncture, Chinese massage, cupping, and stretching are all effective treatments for sciatica. Treatment must include the muscles of your back, hips, pelvis and thighs since they’re all implicated in sciatic pain to some degree.
Acupuncture helps alleviate sciatic pain by stimulating meridian channels that affect the muscles in your lower back and legs. The thin needles used in acupuncture also stimulate your body to release endorphins, endogenous peptides that mimic the action of opioid analgesics.
Stretches for Sciatica
Stretching exercises can ease the discomfort associated with sciatica. These exercises provide relief from pain, and they also help condition muscles so that sciatica is less likely to occur in the future.
• Flexing the back: Lie on your back. Now, pull both your knees and your head toward your centerline so you are flexing slightly. Hold this posture long enough to let your muscles loosen up before moving gently back down.
• Knee to chest flex: Lie on your back with your knees flexed and both feet on the floor. Put your hands behind one knee, pull it very gently toward your chest and then release. This will condition your hamstring muscles.
• Hip and buttock stretch: Stand with your right foot half a step in back of your hips. Bend your left knee, keep your right leg straight, and reach down your right leg until you feel a gentle stretch in your hip.
Nutritional supplements can also alleviate sciatica discomfort by decreasing the levels of prostaglandins implicated in inflammatory responses. Omega-3 fatty acids, an enzyme found in pineapple called bromelain, and the plant-based phytochemical quercetin have all proven effective in treating sciatica.