Total Gym Blog: Exercises to help with Sciatica
Sciatica – What is it?
Also known as Sciatic Neuritis – Sciatica is a lumbar radiculopathy which can cause pain into the lower back, hip, buttock, and travel down the back of the leg and sometimes into the foot. It is caused by an impingement or pressure to the nerve root. Pain can be severe but in most cases it can be resolved with non-operative treatment. Symptoms will vary depending on where exactly the irritation has occurred and effective treatment is directly correlated with accurate diagnosis. It is therefore highly recommended that you seek the advice of your healthcare professional such as your MD or Physical Therapist, who is trained to accurately assess and determine the nature of your injury, before starting any exercise for this condition.
Often characterized by one or more of the following symptoms:
● Constant pain in only one side of the buttock or leg (not often both sides)
● Pain worsened by prolonged periods of sitting
● Pain and/or burning/tingling radiating into the leg
● Weakness, numbness, difficulty moving the leg, foot and/or toes
● Sharp pain on sit – stand
● Lower back pain
● Lower back pain is often less intense than leg pain
So what causes Sciatica?
The Sciatic nerve is the longest and largest in the human body. It begins as a collection of nerve fibers in the lower spine, including L4/5/S1/2&3. It then forms the larger sciatic nerve (up to the thickness of a man’s finger), running through an opening in the hip (greater foramen), below the piriformis muscle and down the back of the leg. At the back of the knee joint the sciatic nerve then divides into two branches (Tibial and Common Peroneal) where it continues to run into the lower leg and foot.
What are some lead causing factors of Sciatica?
● Herniated Disc
● Spinal Stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal)
● Spondylolisthesis (slip of one vertebra on another)
● Muscular tightness eg. Piriformis syndrome
How do I alleviate Sciatic pain?
In acute stages of sciatica, ice (first 48hrs) and then heat therapy is beneficial for reducing swelling, improving circulation and alleviating any associated muscular spasm. Bed rest has not been proven to make any difference in healing time frames and as Physiotherapists we generally recommend remaining mobile as the best option.
If the cause of your Sciatica symptoms are due to a muscular dysfunction, such as Piriformis syndrome, a comprehensive stretch program targeted at your key tight tissue structures is going to help take the pressure away from the nerve pathway and alleviate your symptoms.
1. Piriformis Stretch
2. Hamstring stretch
3. Lumbar Spine stretch
If your symptoms involve a lumbar spine component, a core strengthening program is imperative. Your core stability is what supports your lumbar spine.
A strong core = a strong/stable spine = pain relief
Thus providing the necessary measures needed by your body to keep your spine in alignment and facilitating movements that flex, extend and twist the spinal segments without damage.
• Lower Abdominal strengthening
• Resisted Crunch (pulleys)
• Single Leg Scissors (pulleys)
• Trunk Rotation (pulleys)
How often should I do these exercises?
You should aim to work these into your daily routine. They should not take you any longer than 15-20mins. Aim for 20-30 second holds with your stretches and 3 sets of 10-12 reps for your abdominal strengthening exercises.