Are you suffering from a radiating pain down your leg? You may be experiencing a symptom of sciatica, a condition caused by a compression of your sciatic nerve. In this guide, we explore the most common causes, symptoms and treatments of sciatica.
Typical Symptoms of Sciatica
Typical Causes of Sciatica
Stretches and Exercises for Relieving Sciatic Pain
Other Treatment Options for Sciatica
Preventing Sciatic Pain in the Future
Say Goodbye to Sciatica
Sciatica is a common and painful condition. It often causes radiating pain down the leg, which can be debilitating to the point that you don’t want to move. This can disrupt your life and prevent you from participating in the activities you enjoy.
About 13-40% of people will experience sciatica at some point in their lives. Sciatica happens when the sciatic nerve becomes compressed. The sciatic nerve is a large nerve that runs from your lower back, through the buttocks, down your legs, all the way down to your feet. Usually, treatment entails addressing whatever underlying condition is causing sciatica in the first place.
In this article, we dive into the typical symptoms and causes associated with sciatica, as well as the top five stretches and exercises you can do to help ease your symptoms.
Looking for a solution to sciatica? Try the Injurymap exercise app now.
Technically, sciatica is a symptom of another underlying condition. It happens when the sciatic nerve becomes compressed. This results in the following symptoms.
- Burning or shooting pain in the buttocks and down the leg.
- Symptoms impacting only one leg.
- Pain or symptoms that become worse when sitting, coughing, lying down, or standing up.
Sciatica occurs due to various causes. Whatever condition or situation causes the sciatic nerve to become compressed results in sciatica and its symptoms. Common and typical causes of sciatica include:+ A herniated disc in the lumbar region.+ A muscle spasm.+ Sacroiliac joint dysfunction.+ Degenerative disc disease in the lumbar region.
The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated disc. A herniated disc may happen for an unknown reason. Yet, excess weight, age-related changes, and a sedentary lifestyle may significantly contribute to a herniated disc and also sciatica.
So, what stretches and exercises can you do at home to help relieve your sciatic pain? Here are our top 5:
Usually, sciatica is quite treatable without surgery. Acute forms of sciatica often get better within four to six weeks through proper care strategies. Other treatments, outside of exercise, include:
1. Physical Therapy
Physical therapy aims to help improve function, increase strength, restore mobility, and get you back to your regular activities. For individuals experiencing sciatica, this often involves manual therapy, such as spinal traction which creates space between the spinal bones, taking any pressure off of the sciatic nerve. Your physiotherapist will also show you certain exercises that can help and advise you on what you should and shouldn’t do throughout your recovery.
Over-the-counter medications can help with acute sciatic pain. These may include NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as ibuprofen. Prescribed medications that your doctor may recommend include antidepressants, oral steroids, and opioid painkillers.
3. Massage Therapy
Massage can help alleviate muscle spasms causing sciatica. In turn, you may experience pain relief from increased blood flow, relaxation, and the stimulation of endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers.
4. Lifestyle Changes
Treatment may also involve improving your lifestyle. For instance, sedentary behavior may lead to an increased risk of experiencing sciatica symptoms. You can lower this risk with regular movement and exercise. Further, maintaining a good posture throughout your day can help prevent any muscle imbalances or increased tension from developing. Proper lifting techniques, especially if you have a labor-intensive job, should be followed every time.
In severe cases and if other treatment strategies have failed to work, surgery may be considered. However, it is very rare and often a last resort.
Preventing sciatica comes down to taking care of your physical health in the best way possible. If you experience an injury, ensure you address it through proper strengthening and stretching movements. Maintain a healthy weight through regular exercise and proper nutrition. If you work at a computer all day, make stretching and strengthening exercises part of your routine and remember to keep a good posture as you work. And better yet, try to avoid sitting for long durations. Instead, aim to take a break every hour or two.
When looking at your exercise regime and where you can improve, focus on your core. A weak core, including the abdominals, postural muscles, and glutes, can quickly lead to back issues, such as sciatica.
Your core are the muscles that support your spine and contribute to good spinal health. By improving the strength and flexibility of these muscles, you may prevent back pain - or at least reduce the risk.
By moving more, you may also become more aware of your body. This can help prevent sciatic through better posture and better movements, such as proper form when you go to lift a heavy object. All in all, sciatica does not have to become a recurring problem that haunts you throughout your life. You can proactively take steps toward preventing it, while also improving your overall health.
Acute or mild sciatica will frequently go away with time. However, if you are experiencing severe pain or weakness in the buttocks and legs, have increasing sciatic pain following a traumatic accident or injury, or have lost bowel or bladder control, seek out immediate medical attention. Although rare, these are a sign of a potentially more serious problem.
Sciatica frequently resolves within four to six weeks with proper care and exercise. Use the above five stretches and movements to help cope with your pain and alleviate your symptoms. If pain occurs during any movement, stop performing the exercise. Listen to your body and don’t force yourself beyond the point of pain. As with any exercise, it’s also important to stay hydrated. This can help prevent muscle cramping or spasms.
Need some help or guidance with your exercises? Injurymap is here to help. Take the reins on your recovery and use Injurymap to help reduce your sciatic pain and symptoms. With the help of rehab industry experts, the Injurymap app can transform your recovery journey, making you feel more confident with the exercises and treatment paths you choose to perform. Finally, say goodbye to pain and hello to a better life.
Start today by downloading the Injurymap app. Get back to the activities you know and love - without pain holding you back!
About the author
Krista Bugden has worked as a Rehab Exercise Expert at a physiotherapist clinic in Ottawa, Canada for the past 4 years. She has an Honours Bachelor Degree in Human Kinetics from the University of Ottawa. She uses her extensive knowledge in this area to educate others through well-researched and informative articles. Her passions include helping others and inspiring each person she meets to get the most out of their life.