Exercises to relieve sciatic pain
What is Sciatic Pain?
Sciatic pain is the irritation of the sciatic nerve. It is a shooting pain that begins in the lower back, radiates into the bum and down the back of one leg.
Your sciatic nerve begins at your spinal cord, runs through your hips and bottom, and then branches down each leg. This nerve is your body’s longest nerve and one of the most important ones. It has a direct effect on your ability to control and feel your legs. When this nerve is irritated, you’ll experience sciatica.
Generally the pain is often thought to be caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve from:
- bone spurs
- a herniated disc,
- or muscle strain
Symptoms of Sciatica
You may have pain that gets worse with movement. The normal remedy for sciatic pain is drastic, you have the option:
- nerve block
- cortisone injection
- massage and manipulation
Whilst the last three can perhaps help get to the underlining issue and problem with sciatic pain, the first two simply mask the pain without affecting the cause.
Previously practitioners have been confident that the movement and release of the lower spine and back would bring about sciatic relief. It is believed that sciatica was a symptom caused by an underlying injury to your sciatic nerve or an area that impacts the nerve, such as your vertebrae, which are the bones of your spine in your neck and back.
However, there are lots of branches of the spinal nerve that attach to the spinal cord. You may get some relief if you can manipulate and release one of these but you will not affect the whole of the sciatic nerve. There is no single spinal nerve that runs all the way from your glut (bum) to your foot. There are multiple branches so your sciatic pain will take trial and error to find and release the tension.
In addition, the sacral spine comprises of 5 bones which are fused, there are no discs and therefore nowhere for the sciatic nerve to pinch.
Research is moving towards the theory of imbalance of muscles is the root cause. Imbalances in muscles caused by weaknesses in your thighs for example and then other muscles deeper in your body have to take the force or strain eg. piriformis
The piriformis moves across the spine at the base (sacral spine) across the glutes (bum) towards the hip, and in 30% of the population, the sciatic nerve runs through the piriformis as well.
Gluteus maximus is the prime mover, the Gluteus Minimus is the stabiliser for the pelvis and provides balance if they get strained the push on the piriformis which feels the strain and becomes thicker and impinges on the sciatic nerve.
The Solution is simple…. exercise
The solution is to strengthen the quads, hamstrings, glut max and minimus and release the pressure on the piriformis.
- Sit on a chair and tie band to leg of table – pull against the tension of the band
- Standing Hamstring curls
- Shoulder bridge with hamstrings further out
- Put one straight leg up on a chair and lean towards it.
- Touch your toes 😉
Strengthen your quads
- Tie your band around the leg of chair you are seated on and move your leg forward
- Pulse thigh off chair
- Parallel Squats
Strengthen your gluteus maximus
Strengthen your gluteus medius (hip abduction)
- Lying on your sidearm outstretched under your head for support, stack your hips and attach the Pilates band to ankles. Bend your bottom leg slightly for support. Lift and lower x 20 repeat other side
Gluteal – Medius and Maximus stretches
Lying on your back bring one knee into your body and move side to side
Strengthen front of leg
- Dorsiflexion is heel forward with the band attached to the foot and held in your hands. Pull your foot towards you
Piriformis stretches and exercise
- Lying on your back lift your left leg and place your right ankle on top of the left knee. Hold the position for a moment. This helps stretch the tiny piriformis muscle, which sometimes becomes inflamed and presses against the sciatic nerve, causing pain. Repeat on the other leg.
- Seated position place leg across thigh and experiment with moving forward. Repeat on other leg
- Swan Pose – bring your heel to hip and stretch the other leg behind you. Lean forward as you feel comfortable, repeat on the other side
Spine Stretch exercises and stretches
In a seated position extend your right leg and place left foot on the floor across your straight leg, turn your body away from the foot on the floor and look over your back shoulder, use your right hand on your left knee and left hand behind you.
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