That being said, pinpointing the source of your pain could really help your ability to treat it correctly.
For example, there’s pain… and then there’s sciatic pain. If you’ve ever experienced shooting back pain that extends down your buttocks and along one leg, you know what we’re talking about here. We wouldn’t wish sciatic pain on our worst enemy (not even that bully with the big teeth from 7th grade).
While we’re sad to say there isn’t an overnight fix for sciatic back pain, you also don’t have to suffer in silence. Or, maybe at all. Combined with care from your trusted doctor, there are things you can do at home to reduce your sciatic pain. Buying the best mattress for sciatica and lower back pain relief, doing yoga in your living room, and eating well could all make a difference. Here’s more information on how to relieve lower back pain to get better sleep.
- What Is the Sciatic Nerve?
- Causes of Sciatic Pain
- Symptoms of Sciatic Pain
- How Your Sleeping Affects Sciatica
- How to Treat Sciatic Back Pain
- Why Getting the Best Mattress for Lower Back Pain Helps
What Is the Sciatic Nerve?
The sciatic nerve is kind of a big deal. The biggest, in fact. This is the longest and widest nerve in your entire body. It starts on both sides of your lower back and runs all the way down to your feet. That’s why sciatic pain shows up not only in your back but also in the thighs.
Your sciatic nerve ultimately connects your brain stem to your foot muscles, so when it lights up in pain, the lower half of your body can’t ignore it.
Causes of Sciatic Pain
Sciatic nerve pain is often called sciatica. Contrary to the name, however, sciatica may not originate in its namesake nerve. In other words: Even if you don’t directly damage your sciatic nerve, you can experience this kind of serious discomfort. Sciatica actually refers to a type of pain that can come from all sorts of other conditions. Some of the most common reasons you’ll end up with sciatica include:
- Pregnancy. Being pregnant changes your body in a lot of ways – and most of them affect your lower back. Because your bambino is putting so much pressure on your pelvis and hips, being pregnant can lead to sciatic pain.
- Broken Bones. If you break your leg along the nerve (even if the nerve itself isn’t damaged), you may still notice referred pain.
- Pulled Muscles. Maybe you pulled your back muscle lifting weights, or perhaps you aren’t exactly sleeping on the best mattress for lower back pain, and you tossed and turned the wrong way. Any time you aggravate a muscle near your sciatic nerve, it could lead to irritation of the nerve.
- Herniated Disc. This is the most common cause of sciatica. Discs provide a cushion between your vertebrae (kind of like the cream in the center of an Oreo). When a disc gets out of place, it can push on the roots of the sciatic nerve.
- Spinal Stenosis. People over the age of 60 can experience a narrowing of their spinal canal due to natural wear and tear. The change often affects the roots of the sciatic nerve.
- Piriformis Trigger Points. If your piriformis muscle (located under your glutes) gets irritated or inflamed, it might press on the sciatic nerve. The irritated areas are sometimes called trigger points.
Symptoms of Sciatic Pain
What differentiates sciatica from regular lower back pain? Many adults have lower back pain at some point in their lives – and it’s not all related to your sciatic nerve. Here are some signs you’re dealing with something more than a routine sore muscle from your morning spin class.
- Pain Down One Leg. Sciatica often manifests as pain down one side of your body. If your burning pain is much more noticeable on one leg, it’s a red flag.
- Pain While Sitting. A lot of general back pain can be relieved by sitting or laying down. When you’re dealing with sciatic pain, it could actually get worse when you sit.
- Weakness and Numbness. As we mentioned earlier, pain isn’t the only symptom of sciatica. If you have sudden weakness or numbness in your leg, it could be related to your sciatic nerve.
If you have any of the above conditions or symptoms, it could be time to look into the best mattress for lower back pain or implement some new stretches into your morning routine. The good news is that the pain is not likely to be permanent. Especially if you start treating it early.
How Your Sleeping Affects Sciatica
Sleep can impact sciatica just as much as sciatica impacts sleep. When you don’t get quality sleep, your body can’t rest and repair itself. Meanwhile, when you have sciatica, you may find it difficult to sleep because of the pain and discomfort. Sleep is important for helping you feel your best, especially when you’re suffering from back, leg, and hip pain. Believe it or not, sleep can even reduce the severity of your symptoms while helping you feel well-rested. Here are just a few ways sleeping can affect sciatica.
Your sleeping position can exacerbate or improve your sciatica, so it’s best to find a sleeping position that helps you feel more comfortable. Since sciatica worsens when there’s added pressure on the nerve or muscles, you must find a sleeping position that keeps your back, hips, and legs in proper alignment. Sleeping on your back may provide relief by reducing pressure on the sciatic nerve and lower back. However, this position isn’t comfortable for everyone, so you can try these other positions if you’re not comfortable sleeping on your back:
- On your side: If you’re most comfortable sleeping on your side, keep the side that’s most affected on top and position a pillow between your knees to keep your hips and back in proper alignment.
- Fetal position: If the fetal position is your preferred sleeping position, you’re in luck. This position can reduce sciatic pain caused by a herniated disc. Unfortunately, depending on the cause of your sciatic pain, it may aggravate it. If you’re comfortable in a fetal position, try to keep your body in a C position as closely as possible. You can also ensure proper spine alignment by positioning a pillow between your knees or under the waist, depending on what’s most comfortable for you.
- On your back: If you’re usually comfortable sleeping on your back, you can try supporting your spine by putting a pillow under your lower back and near your hips to support your hips, spine, and legs and reduce pain.
- On your stomach: Sleeping on your stomach can aggravate sciatic pain because it can force your back to arch, pushing your hips forward. If you must sleep on your stomach, consider putting a pillow underneath your hips to keep your spine in proper alignment and take some pressure off the sciatic nerve and muscles. However, this position is not recommended when managing sciatic pain.
Unfortunately, there is no single best mattress for sciatica pain because there are many different causes of pain and many different types of mattresses. However, the type of mattress you choose may provide sciatic nerve pain relief at night. While some individuals will benefit from a firm mattress, others may benefit from a softer mattress. Although super soft mattresses aren’t recommended for sciatic nerve pain because they can put your body out of alignment as you sink into it, the right firmness is key to your comfort.
Luckily, choosing the right mattress is easy when you have options. At Layla Sleep, our memory foam and hybrid mattresses come with flippable firmness. Flippable firmness provides the best of both worlds with a soft, plushy side and a firmer side for more support when you need it; just flip the mattress to find the right firmness level to reduce your pain and help you get better sleep.
As we’ve already discussed, strategically placing pillows can help you improve your spine alignment while you sleep. However, there are also many different types of pillows to choose from. In most cases, you can place any pillow between your knees, but you can also use wedge pillows under your head and upper back to elevate yourself into the best position to sleep to reduce sciatica pain while keeping you comfortable. Finding the right pillow for you will depend on your preferred sleep position. For example, stomach sleepers should use a thin pillow, while side sleepers should use a thick pillow to prevent aches and pains in the shoulders, neck, and back.
Additionally, you can try a body pillow to keep your body in proper alignment and help you stay on your side in a more comfortable position. There are many types of body pillows, including those for pregnant women, which can enhance sleep and reduce pain.
We (should) spend a lot of our life sleeping. If you’re going to rise and grind, you need to sleep and dream. Sleeping on the best mattress for low back pain will relieve pressure points or the areas of your body that are more sensitive than others. Sleeping on the wrong mattress could trigger significant pain; misaligned hips, tossing and turning, and unsupported knees could all aggravate your sciatica.
If you have a chronic nerve issue, you may also want to seek out a good mattress for fibromyalgia. Bottom line: buying the best mattress for lower back pain could lead to a life-changing result.
How to Treat Sciatic Back and Leg Pain
Sciatica sounds bleak, but we’re about to hit you with some good news. About 80-90% of all people with sciatic nerve pain will find relief without needing surgery. It’s the small victories, right? There are many lower back pain treatments available, depending on your current health. Here are some things to try for sciatic nerve pain relief at night (with permission from your doctor, of course).
Stretching is a simple lower back pain treatment you can do in the comfort of your own home. Some stretches are great at working out the muscles that surround your sciatic nerve. You may get some immediate pain relief by targeting areas like your glutes and lower back. One easy stretch is to lay on your back and pull one knee at a time up to your chest, then hold for 30 seconds.
For a glute-targeting stretch, lay on your back and bend your left leg. Put your right ankle over your left thigh. Pull your left thigh toward your chest, leaving your behind on the ground. Then repeat the stretch with your right leg bent.
You’re in pain. The last thing you want to do is exercise, right? Yet, this counterintuitive advice actually works. One study found that people with sciatica who practiced yoga for four months saw their pain reduced by an average of 64%. Other low-impact exercises that stretch and strengthen your muscles include walking, Pilates, and water aerobics.
Reducing the amount of inflammation in your body may also help your sciatic woes. Over-the-counter drugs like Ibuprofen reduce inflammation, but you probably don’t want to throw those back like tic-tacs. Eating right is a better way to naturally get rid of unwanted inflammation. Over time, a diet filled with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lots of water could make a difference.
Carrying Weight Evenly
Your purse is so heavy it might as well be a toddler. A toddler you lug around 10 times a day and who never grows up. If you’re always carrying your bag on one side, it’s time to switch it up.
Alternate the shoulder or arm you use to carry your purse or briefcase. Even better, spread the weight evenly across your back by using a backpack (they’re available in stylish leather these days!).
You’ve heard of acupuncture, now it’s time to get familiar with acupressure. With the help of a tennis ball and some time, you can target pressure points to get relief. Acupressure uses physical pressure instead of needles. Laying on your back with a tennis ball strategically beneath your buttocks or running a tennis ball firmly along areas like the top of your calf or metatarsal bones could help.
Why Getting the Best Mattress for Lower Back Pain Helps
When you’re on a mattress that lets you sink over time, your spine is not super supported. You want your mattress to be like a BFF: always holding you up. Whether you need the best mattress for side sleepers with lower back pain or the best option for back sleepers, memory foam is a top-notch choice. The Layla Memory Foam Mattress has multiple layers of memory foam, including convoluted foam that enables air circulation.
A Layla Mattress’s copper-infused foam not only draws heat away from your body but also conforms to your unique curves. No matter what position you need to sleep in for sciatica relief, a bed made of quality memory foam can handle it. And don’t forget about a memory foam pillow to keep your head, neck, and shoulders in proper alignment. Your pressure points will be soothed, and you can wake up with more energy – and maybe pain-free for the first time in a long time.
When you wake up ready to tackle the day, you’re more likely to keep up with your new sciatica exercise and stretching routines. Plus, everything else that’s on your calendar.
Whether you’re in search of the best firm mattress for back pain or a plush mattress with conforming support – we have you covered. With Layla, getting rid of back pain is easy. Layla mattresses are the best mattress for lower back pain, hands down. You can flip the mattress between the soft and firm sides until you decide which one is better for your sciatic pain or general back pain. Then, all that’s left to do is sleep well and focus on your recovery.