How to Use a Tennis Ball to Relieve Sciatic Nerve and Back Pain
If you have back pain or sciatic nerve pain, you’re not alone. Globally, one out of 10 people suffers from lower back pain, and back pain is also the number one cause of job disability worldwide.
The problem appears to be particularly prevalent in the US. According to estimates, as many as eight out of 10 Americans struggle with back pain, and this affliction has now become a primary cause of pain killer addiction.
I was one of its victims because I failed to appreciate the dangers of excessive sitting and suffered with low back pain for many years. Now I firmly believe back pain can be successfully treated using a combination of posture-correcting exercises and strictly limiting sitting.
Sadly, opioid drugs are typically prescribed as a first line of treatment for back pain,not exercise, and these drugs have now surpassed both heroin and cocaine as the leading cause of fatal drug overdoses in the US.
If you have back pain and suffer depression or anxiety you’re at even greater risk for opioid abuse and addiction, according to recent research.
Depression Combined with Back Pain Raises Risk of Drug Abuse
As reported by Medical News Today,55 chronic lower back patients with symptoms of depression or anxiety participated in the study. During a six month period, they were given either morphine, oxycodone, or a placebo to take as needed for the pain.
Those who rated high in terms of anxiety or depression not only experienced greater side effects; they also got less relief from the drugs, and were more likely to abuse them.
Compared to those with low levels of depression or anxiety, these patients experienced:
- 50 percent less improvement of their back pain
- 75 percent more opioid abuse
According to the authors, this highlights the importance of identifying symptoms of depression prior to prescribing opioid painkillers for back pain, as the risks are so much greater in such instances, and the benefits more limited.
Common Back Pain Triggers
Understanding what may have triggered your back pain can help you avoid another episode, but many back pain sufferers tend to misidentify their triggers. According to recent research, about two-thirds of the patients blamed a specific incident on the day their pain began — most typically the lifting of a heavy load.
But lower back pain can actually be triggered days or weeks before any discomfort sets in, and rarely suspected triggers include alcohol consumption, sex, being distracted while performing physical tasks, and fatigue.
Accidents and sports injuries tend to be among the most common causes of chronic back pain. Poor posture, obesity,5 inactivity (especially chronic sitting), and stress can also increase your risk.
That said, while it can help you avoid a recurrence, it’s not essential to determine what triggered your pain in order to successfully address it.
What to Do When Back Pain Strikes
As reported by the Epoch Times, 75 to 80 percent of back pain cases will resolve on its own within two to four weeks, even without treatment. But you can certainly speed up your recovery.
As an initial step, when pain suddenly strikes, try to relax both your back and your mind. Applying ice can be helpful, as can getting acupuncture or chiropractic care.
And, while many fail to consider this, addressing your emotions is another important component. Depression and anxiety tends to reduce or slow down your body’s innate capacity for self healing, so when pain strikes, it may be a sign that you’ve let emotional difficulties and stress go unaddressed for too long.
Your brain, and consequently your thoughts and emotions, actually play a large role in your experience of pain. Your central nervous system “remembers” any pain that lasts more than a few minutes at the neuronal level.
These memories can become so vivid that the pain persists even after the injury has healed, or re-occurs when it shouldn’t, such as from a gentle touch. Retraining your brain using mind-body techniques like the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) can be very helpful in such instances.
In the following video, EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman shows how you can use EFT to relieve your pain, be it acute or chronic.
Addressing Sciatic Nerve Pain
Sciatic nerve pain is another common problem, and it can be quite excruciating. Sciatica results when your sciatic nerve gets pinched in your lower back. The pain is typically felt as originating in your buttock, radiating down your thigh.
Stretching exercises can help reduce sciatic pain. Your sciatic nerve runs through your piriformis, a muscle located deep in your glutes. If the piriformis gets too tight, it can impinge the sciatic nerve, causing pain, tingling, and numbness in your leg. Sometimes, stretching your piriformis may be enough to reduce the pain. Four exercises to try include the following. For illustrations demonstrating each stretch, please see the featured article in Mind Body Green:
- Piriformis stretch
- Seated hip stretch
- Pigeon pose
- Self-trigger point therapy using a tennis ball or foam roller
The video below also illustrates a simple one-minute daily stretching routine8 that can help reduce sciatic pain stemming from an overly tight piriformis muscle in your buttocks.