As you likely know by now, the location of your sciatica symptoms can vary based on which of your sciatic nerve roots is pinched or irritated. This means it’s possible to experience symptoms in a variety of places, such as your calf, foot, or hamstring (and symptoms may be experienced in multiple locations at once).
Regardless of the location of your symptoms, you may find relief by imagining that a painful part of your body is separated from the rest of your body (a mental practice known as disassociation).
For example, picture your numb foot on the dresser located on the other side of your room. You can then tell your foot (or whichever body part is experiencing symptoms) to stay where it is (as you continue to hold this mental picture in your mind).
When your first start out, you can hold a particular image in your mind for as little, or as long, as you like. If possible, it is also a good idea to locate a dark, secluded room in order to practice the dissociation technique.
Biofeedback refers to the process of using a monitoring machine (often a computer) to retrain physical states in your body that are not normally under voluntary control. Put another way, biofeedback measures a physical process, and then immediately reports the information to the person being monitored so that he or she can learn to consciously influence that physical state.
Biofeedback is used to train people to do such things as lower their heart rate, decrease muscle tension, and lower their blood pressure.
If your sciatica is provoked by muscle tension in your lower back, biofeedback treatment may help bring you relief by training you to reduce the tension and allowing your mind to focus away from your symptoms.
Biofeedback training for muscle tension involves placing electrodes on the skin over the area of the muscle that needs to be retrained. The computer can then measure the amount of muscle electrical activity that is present (this electrical activity is related to the tension in the muscle). On the computer screen, you will be able to see the amount of tension present in the muscle, and then you can slowly learn to decrease it.
3. Enjoy your favorite activity
It might seem too simple, but regularly engaging in your favorite hobby or activity can reduce your perception of your chronic sciatica pain. This is possible because your attention is drawn away from your chronic pain, and instead is placed on the pleasurable task at hand.
You may no longer be able to run a marathon or go mountain biking, but you can likely still engage in simple tasks like writing poetry or reading a good book. Another option is to call a good friend on the phone at least once a week.
As a final word on this technique, we often tell patients that when their pain is at its worst, the last thing you should do is give up on your hobbies. This is not only because engaging in hobbies can reduce your perception of your chronic pain, but it also places you at greater risk for developing depression.
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