The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body, and that comes as no surprise to anybody who has ever experienced sciatica.
The burning, shooting, tingling pain of sciatica is impossible to describe, and equally impossible to forget once it has happened to you. Some people only experience sciatica briefly, while they’re pregnant, but most people who have it are dealing with damage to structures in their back.
The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated disc: it might have ruptured or slipped out of place, forcing the material that serves as a cushion between the vertebrae out of place and causing it to compress the sciatic nerve.
When pressure is put on the nerve, it causes pain that can radiate along its full length, all the way to the bottom of the foot and the toes. For those who experience this jarring pain, the cause matters less than finding the cure – and the cure lies in eliminating the pressure.
While your best approach to dealing with sciatica is to seek expert medical help, there are certain exercises that you can do on your own to take some of the pressure off of the sciatic nerve. The exercises shown below will not cure the underlying problem, but they can address tightness in the piriformis muscle and the hip flexors which may be exacerbating the situation.
- Knee to Opposite Shoulder Stretch – This easy exercise takes just a few minutes, can be done by anybody and can provide tremendous relief. Lay on your back with your legs stretched out in front of you and your feet flexed. Bend your right leg and clasp it with both hands behind the knee. Pull the knee up towards your left shoulder until you feel a stretch in your buttocks, then hold the position. Do not stretch to the point of pain – your goal is relief, not stress. Hold for a count of 15, then return your leg to its original position. Repeat twice, then switch legs and do the exercise again.
- Seated Spine Stretch — This stretch opens up the back, taking pressure off of the sciatic nerve and opening the area between the spine’s structures. Start by sitting on the ground with your legs extended in front of you and your toes pointing straight up towards the ceiling. Bend your right leg and lift it over your left leg, positioning your right foot on the outside of your left knee. Now lean forward, placing your left elbow onto the bent knee and turn your torso to the right. Hold the stretch for a count of thirty and repeat two more times. Repeat with the left leg bent and left foot positioned on the outside of the outstretched right leg’s knee.
- Hamstring Stretch – Sciatica pain is often accompanied by tightness in the hamstring. I you lift your foot onto a surface at or below hip level, keeping the other leg straight. Flex the outstretched, raised foot and bend your torso towards it while releasing your hip, feeling the stretch in the back of your leg. Hold for a count of 30 then switch sides.
These exercises can help alleviate pain, but for a complete diagnosis and treatment plan, contact our office today to set up a time for a consultation.