Sciatica

Lumbago with sciatica is characterized by pain radiating from the lower back down into your leg. Tailored exercises can be part of your ongoing pain prevention strategy. Post diagnosis, work on a strong core with good functional range across the joints of your spine and hips. Read on for information on symptoms, causes and treatment options.

Finn Johannsen Specialist MD in rheumatology

What Is lumbar sciatica?

Sciatica is characterized by pain radiating from the lower back down into the legs. If you are suffering from lower back pain without any pain shooting down your legs, you can read about the most typical form of lower back pain (lumbago) here.

Causes of Sciatic Nerve Pain

Pain radiating into the legs can have many different causes. For example, it may be caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve due to a herniated or prolapsed disc in your spine. Most often, it’s caused by pain from your muscles, tendons, ligaments/joints or joints in the lumbar region, lower back and/or buttocks.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Sciatic Pain

Stay active

Even if you’ve been told you should not lift heavy objects and avoid sitting in certain positions, staying active is your best bet. Being entirely inactive will only lock your back into a state of limited functionality. It’s important to know that pain in itself is not harmful. You should not overprotect the back but instead alternate between walking, standing, sitting and lying down. It’ll help you prevent the injured muscles from stiffening and weakening.

Rehabilitation

The optimal rehabilitation treatment plan will enable the specific functions and activities you need to perform during the course of your work or in your spare time. You’ll achieve this through some form of cardio training, such as aerobics, which will improve stabilization, strength, functioning and oxygen absorption.

Acute pain or a worsening of your chronic pain are a sign to reduce the intensity of whatever exercise or activity causes it. It’s very important to avoid the causes of sudden pain.

As your training progresses and pain levels decrease, you will gradually increase the intensity of everyday activities, so you can return to your usual activity levels. It can often take three to six months to achieve this fully. For this reason, it can be a good idea to seek advice on how to stay motivated.

Even if you are under the impression that training shouldn’t cause pain, pain from exercising is acceptable - so long as the level of pain isn’t too high and it abates quickly once training ceases. This is similar to the way that stretching exercises can feel painful as they concentrate on those muscle areas that are the most painful.

Exercise and training are generally considered to be the most effective and best documented forms of treatment. Stay in good shape and make sure you have strong stomach and back muscles, as this will help reduce any risks of relapsing.

Exercises for Sciatica

  1. Curl and sway on knees

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    • Lie on your hands and knees.
    • Curb your back then slowly sway it the other way.
    • Move slowly so that the full movement takes between 2 and 4 seconds.
    • The entire series represents one repetition.
    • Perform 10 repetitions without pausing.
  2. McKenzie bent arm

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    • Lie on your stomach.
    • Lift your upper body up with your arms so your back sways backward.
    • Relax the abdominal and back muscles.
    • Hold the position for 10 seconds and then return to the starting position.
    • Perform 5 repetitions.
  3. Leg lift on the floor I

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    • Lie on your back with bent knees and your feet placed flat on the floor.
    • Place your hands on your lower back and press it down towards the floor by sucking in your belly and flexing your abdominal muscles.
    • Lift your feet slightly up from the floor and hold the position for 2-4 seconds and then lower them again.
    • Make sure that your hands do not lose contact with your lower back.
    • Perform 5 repetitions.

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About the author

Finn Johannsen is a specialist MD of rheumatology with a diploma in sports and musculoskeletal medicine, as well as an award-winning specialist in rehabilitative treatment of sports and work-related injuries.