What is Sciatica?
This is a term that is the cause of much confusion and is often grossly misunderstood. Sciatica is not just a disease or ailment or even a diagnosis by itself that would point to any particular cause of pain, rather it is a set of symptoms. Generally, it is used for any pain that is caused by the irregular compression or nuisance in one or more of the nerves in the lower part of the spinal cord, that make up the sciatic nerve. These can be caused by various different conditions.
The medical term for sciatica is radiculopathy, which occurs when a spinal disc in the lower back has been extended beyond what is its normal position, irritating the radicular nerve or the nerve root which is connected to the sciatic nerve, that in turn has its off-shoots snaking its way down into the lower body through the back of the leg. Thus pain is experienced along its path.
Exercises For Sciatica
While we may prefer bed rest to exercise when in pain, active sciatica exercise is the best mechanism for healing sciatica pain. Doctors advise rest to patients for just a day or two after a bout of sciatica but inactivity will only aid in worsening the pain because due to the lack of movement the muscles and spinal structures become further cramped and thus their support of the back weakens leading to back injury and major strain on the muscles and spine which adds to the lower body and back pain.
Exercising also keeps the fluids between the discs healthy and well lubricated, also helping with the dispersion of nutrition and strengthening the muscles of the abdomen and back. Exercises for sciatica relief are of many different kinds, depending on the cause of the pain and mostly involve stretching of target specific muscles. Engaging in regular exercise helps to keep these muscles mobile and strengthens them that helps to speed up the recuperation process as well as prevent future such painful incidences.
A physiotherapist, certified athletic trainer (ATC), chiropractor, physiotherapist or a specialist who treats back and lower body problems can be consulted for sciatica pain relief and exercise should only be done under the supervision of a trained professional. It is very important to get an accurate diagnosis of the cause of the pain, because the exercise program to be recommended rests on that. Though rare, sciatica can also be caused by an infection or tumor that requires serious and immediate medical attention. Here are the major causes of sciatica.
- Sciatica from a herniated disc
- Sciatica from spinal stenosis
- Sciatica from degenerative disc disease
- Sciatica from isthmic spondylolisthesis
- Sciatic pain from piriformis syndrome
- Sciatic pain from sacroiliac joint dysfunction
Exercises For Herniated Disc Sciatica
It normally causes acute leg pain as the disc protrudes in the incorrect direction or a nerve root is compressed causing pain to radiate along the sciatic nerve. The exercises prescribed for such a problem are ones that need the patient to get into a backwards bending position called extension exercises or press-ups which cause the pain to ease by moving the muscles in the lower extremities upwards and into the lower back.
Exercises For Spinal Stenosis Sciatica
This is caused by nerve root irritation or impinging, which results in the constriction of the nerve's passageway. This pain shoots down the leg while walking or muscle flexing. All exercises that require the patient to bend forward and flex the lower spine help to clear and expand these passages by stabilizing the lower spine thus allowing for the condition to heal.
Exercises For Degenerative Disc Disease Sciatica
When a degenerative disc intrudes on a sciatic nerve in the lower back it is the cause of sciatica. Exercises for lumbar stabilization are prescribed for this kind of sciatica and includes the McKenzie Method. The lumbar spine and pelvic regions are trained using these exercise movements.
Exercises For Isthmic Spondylolisthesis Sciatica
When the N5 nerve root is impinged upon, it is the cause of this kind of sciatica. There are two kinds of exercises that help in this condition; these include flexing and stabilizing that help the lumbar spine to remain stable in a flexed position.
Exercises For Piriformis Syndrome
Experiencing pain along the sciatic nerve is a common symptom of piriformis syndrome. But this syndrome is not really sciatica but a muscle called the piriformis muscle, which lies in proximity to the sciatic nerve itself, irritates it to cause pain. These cause excruciating pain, tingling and numbness, running from the lower back, to the rear and sometimes down the leg and into the foot. Stretching exercises for the piriformis muscle, hamstring muscles and hip extensor muscles helps decrease the painful symptoms.
Exercises For Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction
The inflammation of the SI joint or sacroiliac joint causes this. Therefore this is not true sciatica but the similar symptoms occur and exercise like stretching and movement exercises should be performed to help alleviate the pain.
Exercises For Long Term Sciatica Relief
These exercises must be performed as a part of daily living and not just treated as a means to get rid of back pain. They ensure good spinal health and help to ease the pressures that stress has on us. It is also a must to maintain good posture while performing daily activities and use ergonomically correct furniture to make sure the lower back is well supported and avoid standing or being cramped in the same position for long periods of time.
It is essential that you engage in these exercises only under the guidance of a trained medical professional and physiotherapist. Maintaining a good exercise regimen, which stretches and stimulates every muscle of the body and a good posture is the key to preventing muscular pain.