There are many things that I have considered a ‘pain in the butt.’
The casual use of this term is certainly not referring to sciatica, which is an actual physical ailment that causes discomfort affecting many people, especially seniors.
Sciatica refers to back pain caused by a problem with the sciatic nerve. A large nerve that runs from the lower back down the back of each leg can become inflamed by pressure or injury, and, believe me, it truly qualifies as the king pain in the butt!
When something injures or puts pressure on the sciatic nerve, it can cause pain in the lower back that spreads to the hip, buttocks and leg. As someone with chronic back pain, this newest delight I seem to have developed causes havoc in the lower portion of the body from the back on down. Anybody have a pillow I can sit on?
The causes of sciatica vary a bit from case to case, but a lot is age-related changes in the spine, herniated disks and bone spurs. When the sciatic nerve becomes irritated or inflamed due to a herniated disc, the pain is generally worse when seated, so avoid any heavy lifting and try to change positions when seated as much as you can physically.
To diagnose the cause of your sciatica, you may need to have some imaging tests. When sciatica strikes, there will be higher-than-normal levels of inflammation around the sciatic nerve. It makes sense to adjust your diet accordingly to reduce those levels in your body by cutting back on saturated fats, which are known to increase inflammation. If you are having pain, avoid red meat, high-fat dairy products and any processed or fried food. Add dark berries and other fresh fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.
Yoga and other stretches are suggested by some, but certain sciatica stretches not only don’t work, they also can be quite harmful. Always talk to your doctor before changing any of your normal routines, and get all the information you can. What is good for some may not be the best laid plans for all.
In severe cases, your doctor may recommend steroid injections as sciatica pain treatment. The steroids are injected directly into the epidural space in your spine. This reduces inflammation around your sciatic nerve and lessens the pressure, relieving pain. So far, I have decided to pass on this.
As we get older, our bodies transform, which may include weight gain and distribution — another wonderful addition to our golden years — and too many of those extra pounds increase stress on the spine, which can lead to sciatica. Sitting for too long can cause the lower spine to compress and aggravate the sciatic nerve even more. Move around if possible, or if unable, use a supportive and comfortable seat cushion.
Hip pain is associated with lower-back issues, and sciatica can cause a burning or tingling sensation in the legs in more severe cases. You may experience a shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand up, and certain positions and movements can worsen the pain.
Although this is not deadly and sometimes it goes away on its own, sciatica is extremely uncomfortable and can hinder certain activities. As much as I am not a huge fan of exercise, I find walking for half an hour at least five times a week helps me quite a bit. The fresh air at this beautiful time of the year is quite conducive for walking, and I meet a lot of lovely people in my community who are doing the same. Unfortunately, some sciatica sufferers have chronic symptoms that just come and go at different levels of pain.
I am not a huge fan of painkillers myself, but ibuprofen, which is an anti-inflammatory, is suggested by some. The use of 1500 mg CBD topical cream helps me quite a bit but needs to be applied every four hours or so to remain effective.
Hot or cold compression packs reduce pain, so I dug out the old electric heating pad and had Grandpa plug it in to one of the few outlets he has not commandeered for his toys. I use it for 20 minutes and then take a break. It really works for me. Some doctors suggest using both heat and cold, alternating them every 20 minutes for relief. Microwavable heat and refrigerated cold packs are available to purchase in most drug stores and online.
For sleeping, experts suggest you lie flat on your back, keep your heels and buttocks in contact with the bed and bend your knees slightly toward the ceiling. Slide a pillow between your bed and your knees for support and see if that helps.
Aches and pains are part of the natural aging process for most, but keeping positive thoughts and trying different remedies can help. Your doctor should be in the loop to determine the best course of action for you.
Marla Luckhardt is a Brentwood resident who works with several local senior care and advocacy groups. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.