The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back through the buttocks, along the back of the thighs and calf and ends at the foot. If any part of this immense nerve is pinched, or inflamed for any reason the pain can be excruciating, long-term and very annoying. For many people, sciatic nerve inflammation is debilitating and can be reoccurring, especially if it is caused by disc degeneration or misuse of the body. What most people look for immediately when they have sciatic nerve pain is a solution to the problem.
Is Exercise a Solution for Sciatic Pain?
Most physicians upon seeing a patient with sciatic pain and its telltale symptoms of pain and even numbness will recommend exercises as a way to deal with the pain. Additionally, exercises designed specifically for sciatica when done as part of a routine are proven to help avoid flare ups of the sciatic nerve. In fact, exercise for sciatica is perhaps the most commonly ‘prescribed’ way of dealing with the pain. Not only is exercise natural, and an easy way to re-oxygenate the cells to promote healing, it is also essential in preventing sciatica.
Most people don’t know exactly where the sciatic pain originates from. Since the nerve is so long, and the pain is widespread it can be difficult to pinpoint one location to massage or stretch. Experts suggest trying the following exercises to both relieve and prevent sciatica flare-ups.
Three Exercises for Sciatica You Should Not Be Without
It is extremely important when doing exercises for sciatica to include the piriformis muscle. This small muscle is centrally located in the hip and is responsible for helping the hip to rotate. Unfortunately, it is very easy to aggravate this muscle and cause it to swell whether you are a cross-country runner or just a mom who likes to wear heels. When the muscle swells, it puts pressure on the sciatic nerve. Stretching this muscle regularly and at the first sign of pain, can bring about quick and drug free relief. Plus, it’s easy to do.
The first step is to sit on the floor and put your ‘pain free’ leg out in front of you. With one leg straight, grab your ‘sore’ leg by the ankle and pull it as close to your chest as possible. Try and hold this stretch for at least 5 seconds. You can do this several times a day, and before embarking on any exercises. This can help to stretch the piriformis muscle and release the pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Often, sciatic nerve pain originates in the lower back. When back and core stomach muscles are not strong, it is easy to injure or strain these muscles, which will then put pressure on the sciatic nerve. Extending and stretching the lower back, is a great exercise for both prevention and to help alleviate pain.
All you need to do to is lie flat, belly down, on the floor. Lift your top half up by using your elbows, and slowly rise up until you are holding your back stretched with your palms on the floor. This will help to stretch all of the muscles of the lower back. If it causes pain at first, do not rise above the elbows. Try to hold the stretch, taking deep breaths for at least 10 seconds.
Another easy exercise that you should do before, and after exercise is the cat stretch. This helps to stretch the back and hip flexors and can bring some relief to sciatic pain. Many people also find that being on the floor on all fours, (like a cat) tends to make the pain of sciatica less. From this position, all you need to do is bow your back in and out. First push you’re back to the ceiling as high as you can, allowing your head to hang low. Then, push your belly toward the floor, stretching your head and neck forward and up. Hold these positions for up to 10 seconds before switching. If one feels better than the other, do that one more often.
Of course, there are plenty of exercises for sciatica as well. If you are a runner you should definitely make sure to stretch your hamstrings by flexing your feet, as well as standing up and touching your toes before and after all exercise including running.
The most natural way to heal from the pain of sciatica is to exercise and stretch very day.