The sciatic nerves are the longest nerves in the human body. Several nerve roots emerge from either side of the spine in the lower back and merge to form the two sciatic nerves, left and right. These run down the back of the left and right legs. The large sciatic nerves connect the spine to the legs. They transmit movement signals from the brain to the leg and sensory input from the leg back to the brain. However, when sciatica occurs, your body feels it.
Sciatica is a painful condition that occurs when one or more of the sciatic nerve roots in the lower back become irritated and inflamed. It is characterized by pain and tingling that extends down the back of the buttock and leg. Sciatica is very common in middle-aged and older individuals. It affects an estimated 40% of people at least once in their lifetime.
What Causes Sciatica?
Sciatica is usually caused by a damaged or herniated disk that irritates one of the roots of the sciatic nerve. It is a good idea to seek a professional diagnosis of sciatica if you experience sciatica-like symptoms. This is especially true if they are severe and accompanied by numbness or bladder/bowel dysfunction. While the condition is benign and easily treated with exercise therapy in the vast majority of cases, there is a remote possibility the culprit could be a tumor, spinal stenosis, or cauda equina syndrome. All those conditions urgently require a different course of treatment.
The causes of sciatica are unclear but may include sitting for prolonged periods at work, aging, obesity, lack of fitness, or ligament laxness due to pregnancy. Pain may also be from a traumatic event that ruptures a disk in the spine, such as trying to lift a too-heavy load with incorrect biomechanics.
Early Sciatica Care
During a bout of sciatica, the pain can be extreme. This makes engaging in traditional exercises difficult. Special low-impact programs designed to stretch the back, buttocks, and hamstrings while remaining seated can jumpstart the sciatica recovery process without aggravating the pain. Once the pain has subsided, other programs can be instituted to promote healing and prevent future sciatica bouts.
Sworkit Workouts To Relieve and Prevent Sciatica Pain
Sworkit has developed a stretching and strengthening program specifically designed to relieve and prevent sciatica and other forms of low back pain, including a workout appropriately named “See you sciatica.” This low-impact program gently stretches and strengthens the muscles in the hips, the piriformis, and the quadriceps. The entire workout only takes 10 minutes to complete. For best results, it should be completed twice a day, once soon after arising in the morning and again in the evening before bed.
Strong hip muscles protect the lower back. The hip muscles, especially the muscles on the sides of the hip that move the leg sideways, stabilize the pelvis throughout the day. If these muscles weaken, the pelvis rocks abnormally with each step and shifts out of alignment while sitting and lying. Abnormal movement of the pelvis can place significant stress on the spine. This causes or aggravates sciatica pain. Exercise programs to stretch and strengthen the hip muscles should be an important part of any sciatica recovery and prevention program.
In addition to the hip muscles, the core muscles of the abdomen and back also support and stabilize the spine. Maintaining a strong core through targeted exercises can prevent and relieve sciatica pain, improve posture, and improve the body’s biomechanics, which can prevent back injuries.
Stand Up and Move
Prolonged sitting is strongly associated with sciatic pain. Unfortunately, many people have to sit for long hours at work. It is a good idea to set a timer and get up and walk around every 15 minutes. If possible, perform a quick workout to stretch out the joints and relieve the muscles several times throughout the workday to prevent pain and other problems.
Good News About Sciatica
Sciatic pain is caused by irritation of the nerve roots of the sciatic nerve, and it is very common. However, the good news is that sciatic pain can be relieved by a few weeks of stretching and strengthening exercises. The even better news is that continuing to perform exercises to stretch and strengthen the core and hip muscles can prevent sciatica pain from returning in the future.