Anyone who’s had to deal with sciatica and the condition’s attendants pains can tell you can that, if not dealt with, it can become a real health issue. The pain caused by sciatica is, in of itself, very unpleasant but it can have serious knock on effects on the rest of your health. For instance, when you feel the pang of sciatic pains running down your back and legs, you’re less likely to get the exercise you need to keep in good shape.
However, whilst it may sound unlikely, exercise is actually the chief tool you should use to combat sciatica. Without enough activity, the muscles in your back will become less capable of supporting your spine properly. Therefore, excess rest can actually compound the situation.
That said, it is very important that you do a type of exercise that is right for you. Not all cases of sciatica are the same. Instances with different causes will require different treatments. Getting this wrong can set you back, so it’s important to get a reliable diagnosis of what is causing you sciatic pain.
This article looks at treating pain caused by a herniated disc. Cases caused by different complaints will not necessarily benefit from the treatment outlined below. Cases caused by spinal stenosis, for example, would benefit from a wholly different range of exercises.
If, however, your sciatica is being caused by disc material interfering with the sciatic nerve, the exercises prescribed to you will aim to first move the pain form the legs, up to the lower back, then strengthen your back so as to combat the problem.
The fist phase of this process uses exercises that will normally involve a backwards bending motion. The most common way of doing this is to lie in a face down position so the back is extended, then, whilst keeping the pelvis in contact with the floor, raise yourself up on your elbows, so your back arches upwards.
Once comfortable with this motion, you can try raising yourself up on your hands, again keeping your pelvis grounded.
The aim of this exercise is to localize your pain lower back, rather than your legs. At first it is likely you will find the positions hard to endure. Take things slowly, progressing until you can perform 10 repetitions, each held for 5 seconds.
Once this has been achieved the next stage is to focus on exercises that strengthen the back and abdominal muscles, making future flare up less likely.
A good exercise for strengthening the back is to lie face down with your hands behind your back and to slowly raise your chest and head. Try and hold the position for 5 seconds at first, working up until you can manage 20 seconds.
For the abdominal muscles sit ups (also known as curl ups) work well. These are done by lying down flat on one’s back, hands crossed over the chest or, if you suffer from neck pain, behind the head. Have your knees bent and make sure your back is flat against the ground. Next, attempt to sit up so that your back is upright, leading with your head and shoulders.
Hold the position briefly and slowly lower yourself back. As you progress, aim to perform two sets of ten in each session. Ensure that these exercises become part of your daily routine, not just something that you do when you start feeling those twinges! As, always, prevention is better than cure.
Andrew Berkerly writes about a number of fitness issues for UK Net Guide.