Sciatica is a simple term used to describe pain which passes down the back of the leg as a result of irritation of the sciatic nerve. It is not a diagnostic term at all. The reason for me highlighting this point, is because any exercises for sciatica you wish to perform will be dictated by the cause of the sciatica itself. Unfortunately there are no general ‘sciatica exercises’ as such.
The sciatic nerve is formed from 5 nerve roots which leave the lower back from the lumbar spine and sacrum. As it does this, the sciatic nerve passes through the buttock region and down the back of the leg to the back of the knee. As it passes below the knee, it is officially no longer referred to as the sciatic nerve. However, pain which is felt anywhere down the back of the leg, to as far as the toes, is typically termed sciatica (assuming it is an irritated sciatic nerve which is causing the pain).
Getting back to the title of this article “Exercises for Sciatica Problems", as I mentioned above, this will all depend upon the true cause of the problem itself.
Three common causes of sciatica are:
1) Disc Prolapse.
This is not as bad as it may initially seem. This problem arises typically when there are too many flexion based forces across the lower back and therefore the discs of the lumbar spine begin to bulge. This bulge then presses on the sciatic nerve and subsequently pain is often felt. If this is the cause of your sciatic pain, as a rule of thumb extension based exercises would be the main principle of your treatment. This may involve lying on your stomach, with or without a pillow underneath, little and often throughout the day. You would then increasing the degree of extension as your pain improves.
2) Facet Joint Compression.
This tends to occur when the joints of the lumbar vertebrae begin to pinch on the sciatic nerve and irritate it. In this circumstance, the opposite to the above exercise is given, where a more flexion based exercise regime would be indicated. For example lying on your back and gently hugging your knees to your chest or maybe kneeling on all fours and gently sitting back on to your heels. Once again, these should be performed little and often throughout the day and progressed as your pain improves.
3) Tight Muscles.
Two of the main culprits when it comes to tight muscles would be the Piriformis and Hamstring muscles (although it is not exclusive to these two). The sciatic nerve passes through or underneath the Piriformis muscle as well as through the Hamstrings. Therefore, if either of these muscles are tight, they can aggravate the sciatic nerve which therefore leads to pain. The aim of treatment here would be to stretch out the tight muscles, in order to relieve some of the pressure from the sciatic nerve.
Any stretch for either the Piriformis of Hamstring muscles should be a gentle one to start with. Only when you feel comfortable with it should you think about progressing to more aggressive stretches.
As I mentioned above, sciatica can be a result of many different causes, and it is the cause of your Sciatica which dictates the exercises needed to be performed, not the sciatica itself.
Just to elaborate a little further before I finish, muscle imbalance is without doubt one of the biggest problems with regards to low back pain and sciatica. This is where either tight or weak muscles combine to place inappropriate stresses across structures, such as the sciatic nerve, which results in pain.
The aim of treatment in these circumstances is to stretch and strengthen the appropriate muscles. Although in this article I have only discussed movement or stretching exercises, it is likely there is weakness as well as tightness present. In such circumstances, it is important strengthening exercises are also performed.
Paul Boxcer - Bsc (Hons) Physiotherapist, has over 10 years experience of treating people in pain. During this time and especially over the last few years, he has concentrated his treatment on those suffering with Low Back Pain & Sciatica.
Following years of analysis of different treatment procedures (http://expertbackcare.com/Sciatica.html ) his belief is that our own body has an innate desire to heal itself, no matter what the injury. When someone suffers from Sciatica it is no different. By ensuring the body is given the correct conditions to heal itself, conditions such as Sciatica can be resolved just as easily as a twisted ankle or pulled muscle. . .
Knowing what to and not to do, is the crucial element.
His book "Free Yourself of Back Pain & Sciatica" not only explains everything you need to know in order to allow the body to heal itself, but also ensures the risk of subsequent episodes is kept to an absolute minimum. Subscribe NOW to his Treat Your Sciatica course and begin curing your pain STRAIGHT AWAY!