It may seem strange to have sciatica and coughing linked together but anyone who has ever had sciatica and a cough at the same time knows that this can be a terrible combination. Indeed, some people have reported the onset of back pain and the subsequent onset of sciatica following a sneeze or a coughing fit.
The reason for the potential triggering of symptoms when you have a cough is due to the internal pressure in your body generated in the coughing reflex. This internal pressure can aggravate muscles that may be in spasm due to nerve irritation. The increase in pressure during coughing may cause nerve root compression from a bulging or herniated disc in the spine, which can aggravate an already irritated nerve leading to increase in sciatic pain symptoms.
Sciatica, painful as it can be, is not as significant as catching the wrong type of cough during the Covid 19 pandemic. In this blog we will cover how to best avoid getting a cough or cold (of any kind) and we why some of these tips are useful for warding off sciatica too. We will also cover things to try to alleviate sciatica symptoms while experiencing a cough or cold.
Wash your hands
We have all heard this a million times already but the importance of it cannot be overstated. It is the primary way we prevent the spread viruses. Our hands get everywhere, and it is done unconsciously.
- Be mindful of what you have touched and use this as your cue to wash your hands.
- Soap and water are best and don’t forget to moisturise your hands afterwards. We don’t want to dry out our skin.
- Limit the use of hand sanitisers to exceptions, as most have some alcohol in which defats the skin and makes it very dry. If the skin becomes dry and broken this can be an entry point into the body for foreign bodies. Also, who wants to be part of an outbreak of dermatitis following overuse of hand sanitisers.
Unfortunately washing your hands confers no benefit for sciatica (that we can think of!), but it can be a life saver!
Regularly take on fluid
One of the quickest ways to get substances and foreign bodies inside the body is through the thin membranes in the mouth. Drinking fluids rinses the mouth and throat and flushes things down to the stomach. Not much can survive in stomach acid including most viruses. Think of the sipping liquid as rinsing a bowl to clear away crud. If you are not given to drinking copious amounts of liquid (running backwards and forwards to the toilet all day is no fun) stick to little and often. A few sips of drink every twenty minutes.
Staying well hydrated is good for sciatica symptoms. Being well hydrated is good for your general health and good general health helps with recovery from anything. Choose a healthy drink such as water or herbal teas for other added benefits.
Being well hydrated may help specifically with sciatica. Most sciatica is due to nerve root irritation in the lower back where nerves can be compromised due to narrowing of spaces between spinal bones. As we get older our spinal discs, which help to maintain good spaces for our nerve roots become more compressed and more dehydrated. Most of us are taller in the morning than when we go to bed at night because throughout the day while we are upright our spinal discs become more compressed. Lying down at night gives the discs a chance to decompress. Staying well hydrated gives the best chance for our spinal discs to be hydrated and hopefully a bit ‘plumper’ to give a bit more space for our spinal nerve roots.
Freshen the air you breathe
During the winter months one of our favourites is to use a vapouriser or diffuser with essential oils to help clean the air and create pleasant aromas in the home. Essential oils have great properties such as they are antimicrobial (kill bacteria and viruses), they help to fight infections, and some are nervine (help to calm the nerves). The aromas can help you to relax and feel calmer.
Essentials oils can help with your recovery from sciatica as feeling calmer and more relaxed can be good to help alleviate pain and promote healing. If you are feeling adventurous a few drops of the right type of essential oil in a warm carrier oil and gently massaged into the lower back can be very soothing.
Our favourite essential oils that act in the way described above are Marjoram, Eucalyptus, Cinnamon, Lavender and Sandalwood. A few drops of any two or three can create a great blend.
Keeping your environment clean is important but to have the greatest impact where to focus your energy: –
- Clothes – It is obvious but worthwhile stating. Your clothes are the closest thing to your body and on you all day long. Viruses and bacteria are viable (can live) on clothes for hours or days so changing them regularly and washing them is the surest way to keep viruses at bay.
- Surfaces you touch regularly – We have not got time to deep clean our homes every day, so it is important to focus on the places of greatest impact. Wipe down the things that you are going to touch several times a day gives you the most impact in the shortest amount of time. Things to focus on; –
- Handles – Doors, fridges, oven, cupboards, toilet flushes, etc.
- Light switches
- Metal – Prioritise metal as this is where viruses are viable for longest (several days)
The upside for sciatica in cleaning is that it helps to keep you moving and occupies the mind, which is good for recovery. No need to pull up any trees. Just gently go about your business.
We have written in previous blogs about eating healthily and staying physically active and you can go back and refresh by revisiting some of these blogs. What we mean by clean living is the following: –
- Don’t smoke!
- Eat well – Fresh fruit and vegetables. Reduce or moderate, process foods, sugar, saturated fats
- Keep moving – Remain physically active
All of these things are the fundamentals for good general health. If you improve your general health, you reduce the chances of catching a virus and developing back related issues and associated sciatica. We can’t always avoid getting viruses or back related problems, but the better your general health the better you will be able to cope. Whichever way you look at it there is no downside to good general health.
Despite our best efforts catching a virus or developing sciatica sometime happens. In the scenario where they occur at the same time here are few tips to try and reduce the impact.
For many a sore throat is the first sign of impending viral symptoms. At the slightest sign of a sore throat, i.e., a bit dry and scratchy get on it immediately. As in prevention take on plenty of fluids: –
- Sip honey and lemon to soothe the throat and help to fight infection
- you might want to try gargling antiseptic or saltwater to kill the infection in the throat and prevent it getting further down the airways.
- You might want to try a vitamin C supplement and echinacea droplets in water, both of which have been shown to shorten a duration of a cold but not prevent catching one.
Some of the techniques above can help reduce the incidents of coughing but at times a really persistent cough will not be abated and a good cough remedy to help calm the cough reflex is in order.
While coughing there is something you can try to hopefully reduce the impact on your sciatica symptoms: –
Practice bracing – When you feel a cough coming on stand upright and brace yourself. By this imagine someone was going to punch you in the stomach and you tense your stomach in anticipation. Those experienced in Pilates will know this as tightening your core.
That’s all for now. We hope this blog has given some ideas on how to minimise the likelihood of getting a cough while experiencing sciatica and ways to minimise the impact of a cough on sciatica symptoms.
All the best and stay safe.