WHAT IS SCIATICA?
Sciatica is the pain along the course of the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in the body. It usually involves one of the sciatic nerves but may affect both.
CAUSES OF SCIATICA-
Compression of the sciatic nerve due to-
- Lumbar herniated disc causing pressure on the sciatic nerve root.
- Lumbar spondylosis
- Lumbar spinal stenosis
- Injury to the lumbar spine.
- Bone spurs on the vertebra resulting from arthritic changes may irritate the sciatic nerve.
- Piriformis syndrome.
- Spinal tumors.
SYMPTOMS OF SCIATICA-
- Lower back pain.
- Pain radiating down from the lower back to the buttocks to the back of the thigh to legs. This pain is usually sharp and shooting. Sciatica pain aggravates with bending forward.
- Numbness in the leg.
- Tingling and pins and needles sensation in the leg, feet, and toes.
- Weakness of lower limb muscles.
- Severe cases may have bladder and bowel dysfunction.
EXERCISES FOR SCIATICA
- Back extension exercises-Lie down on your stomach with your hands under your shoulders. Raise your upper body onto your elbows while keeping both forearms and hips relaxed on the floor. Hold for 10 seconds and return slowly.
- Sciatica nerve gliding exercises-Sit upright on a chair with your feet dangling. Slump your body and bend your head forward. Then, extend your leg forward. Now, pull your toes towards you by flexing your foot. Hold this position to feel the gentle stretch and return to the starting position.
- Knee to chest stretch-Lie on your back with both knees bent. Grab behind one knee and gently pull the knee towards your chest until a comfortable stretch is felt in the lower back. Hold for 5-10 seconds and then return to the starting position. Repeat five times on each side.
- Hamstring stretches-For a dynamic Hamstring stretch, lie on your back, reach hands behind your knee, keep the knee at a 90-degree angle, and kick up slowly until you feel stretch. Avoid any hamstring stretch that involves forward bending like a seated hamstring stretch.
- Pelvic Tilts-Lie down with knees flexed and pointing towards the ceiling, flatten your back against the floor by tightening your abdominal muscles and tilting your pelvis toward the ceiling. Repeat five times.
- Bridging-Start with supine lying with knees flexed together and pointing towards the ceiling, arms by your side with palms facing down. Inhale and push through your heels, lift your lower back and hips, so that the whole body from knees to shoulder is aligned in a slanting line. Your body must be resting on your upper back and shoulders. Hold for five seconds, repeat five times.
- Piriformis Stretch-Lie on your back. Bend your affected leg knee so that your foot is flat on the floor. Cross your unaffected leg with ankle resting on the other knee. Use your hands to grab hold of your affected knee and pull it gently toward the opposite shoulder. You should feel the stretch in your buttocks and hips. Hold this stretch for ten seconds, repeat five times.
- Lower back rotations-Lie back on the floor with bent knees and feet flat on the ground. Keeping the shoulders firmly on the floor, gently roll both bent knees over to one side. Hold the position for 5–10 seconds, then return to the starting position. Now roll the bent knees over to the opposite side. Hold for 5-10 seconds, and then return to the starting position. Repeat five times on each side.
- Prone leg lifts-Lie on your stomach with your legs straight. You can rest your head on your arms. Lift one leg a few inches off the floor, keeping the leg straight. Hold for five seconds and slowly bring your leg down. Repeat five times on each side.
- Alternate arm and leg lifts from 4-point kneeling– Get on all fours. Place your hands shoulder-width apart directly under your shoulders. Simultaneously straighten and raise your left leg and right arm, keeping your pelvis and shoulders in a neutral position. Hold for five seconds and go back to the starting position. Repeat five times on each side.
PREVENTION OF SCIATICA
- Maintain good posture while sitting with good lumbar support and feet resting on the ground.
- Avoid prolonged sitting.
- Maintain a healthy weight to avoid undue stress on back.
- Avoid lifting heavy loads, frequent twisting, and turning of the back.
- Control your sugar levels, manage your diabetes well.
- Quit smoking.
- Maintain good flexibility of hamstring muscles.
- Maintain good core strength and strengthen your back extensors.
STAY INFORMED! STAY FIT!
Any exercise that aggravates your pain should be avoided. These exercises mentioned here are for general education and awareness. Get yourself assessed by a certified physical therapist to know the exact cause of your Sciatica and exercise accordingly.