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About two years ago, I began a consistent gym routine. I reaped all the benefits you generally want from it, too: I had more energy, I felt myself getting physically stronger, my mental health was better than ever, and I actually liked getting up early in the mornings for once. However, I also picked up one unfortunate side effect: a pinched sciatic nerve, aka sciatica. Which, leads me to everything I learned next...
What is sciatica?
For those who aren’t familiar, sciatica is a pretty common pain condition that happens when the sciatic nerve—a large nerve that runs from your hips through your buttocks and down the backs of your thighs—becomes pinched for some reason.
What does sciatica feel like?
The Mayo Clinic noted on its site that some people experience numbness in the area of the sciatic nerve, some people experience electric jolt-like pain, some people experience aching, and some people only experience pain when they move into certain positions—it depends on the nature of the injury, and how severe it is. Often, sitting down for long periods of time exacerbates the pain, which is unfortunate since sitting is such a great and fun activity.
What causes sciatica?
It’s not clear what exactly caused my recurrent sciatica, but I imagine I just went too hard at the gym one too many times. “Overuse and excessive tightness [are a common cause of sciatic injury and pain],” Erin Motz, NASM-certified personal trainer and co-founder of Bad Yogi, explains. Though I still love my fitness routine, I now have to factor in sciatic pain that flares up every now and then—especially when I sit for long periods of time.
Meet the Expert
Erin Motz is a NASM-certified personal trainer and the co-founder of Bad Yogi. She has been teaching yoga for over 13 years. She has studied anatomy, biomechanics, kinesiology, and personal training and has experience teaching yoga to a diverse group of private clients ranging from pro athletes to stay-at-home moms.
Speaking of the sitting: Excruciating when the sciatica is at its worst, which makes working a desk job or sitting in cars or taking plane rides or doing anything that involves chairs quite difficult. Sitting! One of my favorite activities!
The only product that helped
I was in the midst of saving up for physical therapy and taking Advil on the reg until I discovered a product that truly changed my life: Comfilife’s Gel Enhanced Seat Cushion that’s designed for sciatica and back pain relief. It’s $33 on Amazon, and it’s the best $33 I’ve ever spent.
So, it’s essentially a memory foam butt cushion. You sit on it normally, and somehow it offers extra support to your tailbone so there’s less pressure on your back and sciatic nerve. I don’t notice a change in my posture or the way I sit when I use it, but I imagine it helps. Whatever the case, all I know is that since beginning to use it, the sciatic pain is pretty much gone—to the point where I can stop using the cushion every day, and only when I really need it.
It worked pretty quickly as well—I was only using it daily for about two weeks until I realized I wasn’t in constant pain anymore. I stopped using the cushion every day at that point, and the sciatica didn’t come back for weeks. It actually wasn’t until I ended up on a long plane ride without the cushion (rookie mistake) that the sciatica returned, and I vowed to never travel without it again.
I will be the first to admit that it’s not the sexiest thing to carry around with me to the office or to plane rides or to cars, but if I have to choose between looking like a cool 20-something girl or being in pain for hours because my sciatica is flaring, I’m going to take the latter. It even comes with a little handle to make carrying easier, but since I do want to look a little trendy, I usually just stick it in a cute tote bag. Do you, you know?