Sciatica is pain that involves the sciatic nerve. This nerve in the lower back runs through the hips and travels down the legs. Sciatica pain is prevalent in society today, with nearly 40% of people experiencing it at some point in life, especially as they age.
The level of discomfort can range from mild twinging to significant, chronic pain that interferes with activities of daily living. Understanding what causes the problem, and specifically how to improve comfort when sleeping, can help you better manage your sciatica pain.
What Causes Sciatica?
Sciatica occurs when surrounding structures pinch the sciatic nerve. This nerve becomes pinched when a disc in the spine herniates or bulges. However, bone spurs (which is an overgrowth of bone) or a tumor may also cause sciatica. This is typically a rare occurrence. Diabetes and other diseases may also be causes of sciatica since they damage the nerves by reducing the blood flow those nerves need to function properly.
Finding the cause of sciatica pain is an important part of determining how to treat it. Since sciatica pain is often most uncomfortable when lying down to sleep, it’s important to find ways to manage the pain before bed.
What to Do Before Bedtime to Alleviate Sciatica Pain
Perform Stretches Before Bed
Stretching before bed is one of the ways you can reduce sciatica pain. Because sleeping with sciatica isn’t always easy, you want to make sure you’re doing all you can to feel as well as possible. There’s certain equipment you can use to help with these stretches, as well. Many people use a spine roller, or they roll their lower back over a tennis ball to help get more sciatica relief.
Take a Bath Before Bed
A warm or hot bath is another great way to reduce the pain you’re experiencing from sciatica. The warmth will help relax your back and its nerves, and that can make you more comfortable faster. Alternatively, you can use a hot water bottle for the same effect, either before bed or while you sleep.
Develop a Consistent Bedtime Routine
Developing a consistent bedtime routine can help with sciatica pain, by decreasing discomfort and nerve problems and increasing relaxation. When you take the time to create a peaceful setting before bed, you make it easier for your body to heal. This may not completely alleviate sciatica, but it can help move the problem in the right direction. This may not completely alleviate sciatica, but it can help move the problem in the right direction.
Buy a Mattress That Provides Sciatic Relief
When you have the right mattress, it can help reduce sciatica pain. There are several types of mattresses you can choose, depending on the position in which you normally sleep. But the most important consideration is to select a mattress that’s firm enough. A softer mattress doesn’t provide the support you need if you struggle with sciatica.
Best Sleeping Positions to Alleviate Sciatica Pain
The right sleeping position is an important part of getting relief from sciatica. Some people are simply more comfortable in certain positions than others. So, you may need to experiment a little bit to find which position is going to feel best to you. However, there are a few specific positions that can make sleeping with sciatica easier:
Sleeping on Your Side
Side sleeping can be a great choice if you have sciatica. However, you’ll notice that one side feels much better than the other. That has to do with the way your spine aligns when laying on your side and which side puts the least amount of pressure on your sciatic nerve. Pick the best side for your comfort, and you should get a better night’s sleep.
Positioning a Pillow Between Your Knees
When you put a pillow between your knees, you can help align your spine. That takes the pressure off your sciatic nerve and reduces sciatica pain while sleeping. It may not eliminate sciatica completely. However, it can help you sleep better and give the area that’s damaged or pinched a chance to start healing.
Assuming the Fetal Position
If you curl into a fetal position you open the space between the vertebrae and take pressure off of the sciatic nerve. You can sleep in the fetal position, but even just lying that way can improve your comfort.
Sleeping on Your Back With a Pillow Under Your Knees
If you prefer to sleep on your back, putting a pillow under your knees helps with spinal alignment. Make sure to use a firm pillow that’s going to provide support, because a pillow that’s too soft won’t provide the solid support you need to take the pressure off your sciatic nerve.
You Have Options to Reduce Sciatica Pain
Sleeping with sciatica isn’t always easy. However, the right position and treatment can help you sleep more comfortably and reduce pain. You don’t need to suffer from sciatic nerve pain when there are options to make your life (and your sleep) better. If you need assistance to make sciatica less painful while you wait for the nerve to heal, schedule an appointment with our pain specialists now.
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes sciatica worse at night?
Sciatica gets worse at night because lying down puts pressure on the sciatic nerve that’s not there when you’re sitting or standing.
Does elevating legs help sciatica?
Elevating your legs, or putting a pillow under your knees, is a good way to reduce the pain that can come from sciatica.
How do you massage a sciatic nerve?
You can massage the area along your spine with your thumbs, use tennis balls to put pressure on your back while lying on the floor, or use a tennis ball against your back when sitting in a chair. A professional massage can also help.
Does bending over make sciatica worse?
Bending over can cause sciatica pain to flair up because it causes the muscles in the buttock to rub up against the nerve.
When is sciatica a medical emergency?
If pain is severe and common treatments don’t provide relief, or if you have numbness or weakness in one or both legs, you need to see a doctor promptly. Loss of bladder or bowel control also means you should go to the ER for treatment.
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