Sciatica is a painful condition that is often caused by nerve root tension or a neurological deficit in the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is responsible for providing direct motor function to the different parts of our body including the hamstrings and lower extremity adductors. Moreover, it also provides indirect motor function to the calf muscles, anterior leg muscles, and even the intrinsic foot muscles. Therefore, these are the areas that experience excruciating pain during sciatica. Inflammatory conditions in these areas can also cause irritation to the sciatic nerve resulting in deliberating pain.
The inflammation of muscles around the sciatica nerve can painfully compress the nerve and can lead to more severe motor dysfunction. Also, the pain or paresthesias in the sciatica nerve can be a result of severe irritation, inflammation, or pinching. This pain can worsen while the person bends, coughs, or twists because these activities affect the sciatic nerve distribution or an associated lumbosacral nerve root.
Without proper treatment, exercises, or medication, the pain can increase and significantly affect a person's daily life. Doctors usually suggest analgesics to decrease inflammation or physiotherapy in Whitby to relieve sciatica pain.
What are the Symptoms of Sciatica?
Sciatica is commonly mistaken as chronic lower back pain or radicular leg pain because the pain mostly affects these areas. Therefore, to differentiate sciatica from any other chronic musculoskeletal conditions, doctors usually suggest physical examinations such as neurological testing. Patients who experience severe lower back pain that feels like it is radiating to their legs and feet are usually recommended to undergo neurological testing. Some patients report radiating pain in one leg mostly below the knees. Also, the pain follows a dermatomal pattern and may also affect the sensation in those areas, making it feel numb.
The consistency of the pain also varies for different people. For some patients, the pain will be chronic, which means they will experience it quite frequently and severely. While for others, the sciatica pain might be irregular and spontaneous but has the possibility to get worse. Moreover, it usually depends on where the sciatic nerve is affected. Sometimes it could cause pain on one side of the entire lower body or even extend the pain from the lower back to the back of your thigh and down through your leg.
Only an effective neurological test can precisely confirm whether the pain experienced is caused by sciatica or if it is because of other conditions such as lower back pain or leg pain.
Some of the other most common symptoms of sciatica are listed below.
- Severe lower back pain
- Excruciating pain in the rear or leg particularly sitting
- Pain in the hips
- A burning or tingling sensation down the legs
- Insensitivity of weakness in the region of pain
- Chronic pain on one side of your back
The Best Exercises for Sciatica Pain Relief
In order for the sciatica pain relief exercises to be effective, they must be done regularly. Moreover, you must pay close attention to the exercise posture and body mechanics to get the best results.
1) Lateral Leg Swing
The lateral leg swinging exercises are great for the hip muscles. This exercise can help reduce sciatica pain and improve performance.
Step 1: In a standing position, lean back against a wall.
Step 3: Keep your spine upright and core engaged.
Step 4: Place your body weight on the back of your leg (calves).
Step 5: Keep both your knees slightly bent.
Step 6: Draw in your stomach muscles and slowly lift up your right leg.
Step 7: While keeping your right knee bent, swing the right leg inward at your hip.
Step 8: Bring the knee outward and back to the initial position in a continuous sequence.
You may repeat the same with your left leg and swing your legs at least 12 times each.
2) Glute Foam Roller Stretch:
This is a simple exercise for sciatica pain relief that you can do at home itself. All you need for this stretching exercise is a simple foam roller. Foam rolling is usually preferred for sciatica pain relief because it massages your nerves, improves flexibility, and moreover, strengthens your muscles to prevent injury.
Step 1: Sit with your left leg slightly bent and your foot on the floor.
Step 2: Cross your right leg over with your right foot resting on your upper left leg.
Step 3: Place the foam roller under your hips.
Step 4: Put your hands on the floor behind you to push up your upper body.
Step 5: Roll up and down the right side of the hips and buttocks.
Perform the rolling exercise for at least thirty seconds on each side. Roll on the particular area that you feel more pain in so that the muscles get more relaxed.
3) Piriformis Stretch:
There are several stretching exercises that can relieve your Piriformis muscles but we will talk about the easiest one. These stretches are mainly performed to release the tension in the piriformis muscle because a tight piriformis muscle can put excessive pressure on the sciatic nerve hence causing sciatica pain.
Step 1: Lie on your back with your knees bent and both feet on the floor.
Step 2: Bring your right knee up to your chest.
Step 3: Grasp the right knee with your left hand and pull it up towards your left shoulder.
Step 4: Hold the position for 5 seconds and repeat the same steps with your other leg.
Try to perform this exercise at least 3 times each day.
4) Dead Bug Exercise:
This is a simple sciatica stretch that you can perform at your home itself. The dead bug exercise is a great way to strengthen your core muscles. By strengthening your core muscles you help reduce back injuries which can lead to sciatica pain.
Step 1: Lie flat on your back with both your legs on the floor and allow your shoulders to lie flat.
Step 2: Lift your hands such that the elbows are aligned with your shoulders.
Step 3: Similarly lift your legs so your knees are aligned with your hips.
Step 4: Slowly lower your left arm and right leg but don't touch them on the floor. Hover them just inches above the floor.
Step 5: Bring your leg and arm back to the initial position.
Repeat the same steps for the right arm and left leg as well.
Since sciatica pain is a result of nerve compression or irritation; loosening the muscles around these nerves is the best way to relieve the pain. Exercises for sciatica pain relief not only reduce the pain but are also great for strengthening your muscles and increasing their flexibility. If you experience deliberating pain even after these exercises, you should consult a doctor or physical therapist. Physiotherapy treatments include different methods to strengthen the muscles and relieve nerve compression.
Physical therapists will first create a treatment plan that suits your lifestyle and take into consideration your other health conditions. This treatment plan will include peripheral neuropathy, massage therapy, different types of exercise, and much more to relieve sciatica pain. Therefore, if you are suffering from severe pain due to sciatica, then make the right choice and start a treatment or exercise routine today.
Cindy Williams is a blogger in Canada. She graduated with honors from the University of British Columbia with a dual degree in Business Administration and Creative Writing.