Sciatica can be a real pain in the butt, literally! 40% of American’s experience it which impacts the quality of life significantly. Sciatica is pain that starts in the low back or buttocks and spreads down the back of the leg. The pain experienced is different for each individual. Some describe it as a toothache, others it is a numbing, tingling, or sharp pain. The pain is a result of pinching/compressing the sciatic nerve as it exits the spine, or in the buttock. In general, surgery is not required but managed with physical therapy, a non-operative treatment method. Call your physician immediately if there is a sudden loss of strength in your leg or sudden change in bladder and bowel function associated with the pain. Read below to find out what the top MD recommended exercises are for Sciatica.
How Do I Get Sciatica?
Why or how does the nerve get pinched? This is different for everyone. For some, it is a slipped or herniated disc. Others it is a build-up of arthritis and or joint thickening, this shrinks the space where the nerve exits the spine (called stenosis). Other symptoms associated with sciatica is a weakening of the trunk muscles, and poor body mechanics. However, the vast majority of people over 40 have some degree of arthritis or disc herniation without any symptoms. It is only when these conditions advance that sciatica may result (but not always!)
Don’t Put off Treatment!: If you currently have sciatica, from mild (only occasionally feel pain) to more serious (almost always have pain) DON’T put off treatment. It’s best to take care of it early, to prevent the situation from worsening. Physical Therapists are skilled in treating different types of low back pain, including sciatica. Through a tailored program, reducing the compression of the nerve through strengthening, joint mobilization, and posturing, you can be unafraid to do what you love. The sooner you take care of sciatica the less treatment will be required in the long term.
Top Exercises for Sciatica
Strengthen your Deeper Core: The deep muscles of your stomach (deep core) support your lower spine. This may be the most important exercise to do for back pain. An easy exercise is to Brace this muscle as if tightening a belt or corset in your stomach and march your knees up one at a time.
Strengthen your Glutes or Butt Muscles: The best way to start is with a bridge. To perform, start on your back with your knees bent, dig your heels into the ground, squeeze your butt cheeks together and lift your hips up.
Hamstring Stretch: Many times the hamstrings are tight (however not always) Laying on your back pull your straight leg up to a 90-degree position, if you do not feel a stretch in the position, likely you do not need to stretch this muscle.
If you don’t feel confident doing the exercises above, start with the first tip and seek treatment. Get back to a happier and healthier you by contacting a physical therapist at Action Potential!