Sciatica is one of the most common injuries, with as many as 40% of individuals experiencing the condition, and it becomes more frequent as the body ages. The pain originates with the sciatic nerves and can go on for several weeks, months, or years. Staying active is a major recommendation to relieve the pain and prevent future flare-ups. Injury Medical Chiropractic and Functional Medicine Clinic can decompress and release the nerve and educate individuals on an anti-inflammatory diet and staying active to expedite healing.
Sciatica is most commonly caused by a slipped disc, which puts pressure or irritates the sciatic nerve, and causes discomfort and painful sensations. The most common factors for developing sciatica include the following:
- As the body ages, the spinal discs wear out and break down, leading to the spine shifting out of alignment.
- Job occupations that place added strain on the back, like sitting or standing for extended periods, repetitive heavy lifting, or bending, reaching, and twisting movements.
- Practicing unhealthy postures.
Doctors and chiropractors have found that only resting with sciatica can worsen the injury.
- This is because if it is a slipped/bulging/herniated disc, the disc remains in this state, the nerve stays compressed or irritated, and the muscles that control the low back become weak and unable to provide support.
Don’t Sit For Too Long
- Prolonged periods of sitting place added pressure on the discs and ligaments in the low back.
- Even when sitting doesn’t make it worse, the muscles can develop unhealthy muscle memory that causes partial contracting when there shouldn’t be any that tightens the gluteal muscles causing added strain.
- Individuals with a job requiring a lot of sitting or standing are recommended to take frequent breaks to stretch out their muscles or use a standing desk to change positions.
Slouching, hunching, and continuing to practice unhealthy postures will exacerbate sciatica.
- Pay attention to the body’s position when standing or sitting.
- To prevent slouching, pull the shoulders down and back.
- Imagine the shoulder blades touching.
- Individuals working at a desk or workstation should take frequent breaks.
- Position the screen to see it without tilting the head down.
Increase Physical Activity and Exercise
Exercise is highly recommended to keep the muscles and nerves moving and circulation flowing.
- Walking, light jogging, swimming, cycling, and dancing, increase heart rate without causing added strain or pain.
- Exercises using free weights, weight machines, or isometric exercises strengthen the muscles and can help restore their position.
Stretching and Flexibility Training
- Yoga, tai chi, and Pilates increase flexibility and strength.
- The stretching will keep the nerves and muscles from spasms that can worsen the injury.
Strengthen The Core
A stronger core will improve spinal health. Actively engaging the abdominal muscles protects sciatic nerve roots by minimizing spinal pressure.
- The back muscles can become increasingly stressed and tired when they have to do all the work without core muscle support.
- A weak core can cause additional back pain and worsen sciatica symptoms.
Stand Up Straight
- Keep the head and shoulders straight.
Focus On Breathing
- Rhythmic breathing helps keep the mind focused and alert while engaged in an activity.
- The back, side, pelvis, and buttock muscles are also part of the core.
- Strengthening all of these muscles helps to support the spine.
- Exercises for core strengthening include yoga and Pilates, planks, and bridges.
As the nerve recovers, the area the nerve supplies could experience tingling discomfort.
- This could be accompanied by an electric sensation at the level of the healing nerve fibers.
- The location of this sensation should move as the nerve heals.
- With time the sensations should subside, and the area should begin to feel more normal.
Spinal Decompression Demonstration
Jensen, Rikke K et al. “Diagnosis and treatment of sciatica.” BMJ (Clinical research ed.) vol. 367 l6273. 19 Nov. 2019, doi:10.1136/bmj.l6273
Kuai, Shengzheng, et al. “Influences of lumbar disc herniation on the kinematics in multi-segmental spine, pelvis, and lower extremities during five activities of daily living.” BMC musculoskeletal disorders vol. 18,1 216. 25 May. 2017, doi:10.1186/s12891-017-1572-7
Ma, Xiao, et al. “The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults.” Frontiers in psychology vol. 8 874. 6 Jun. 2017, doi:10.3389/fps.2017.00874
Ramaswami, Ramya, et al. “Management of Sciatica.” The New England journal of medicine vol. 376,12 (2017): 1175-1177. doi:10.1056/NEJMclde1701008
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The information herein on "Staying Active With Sciatica" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, or licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
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