What Are The Best Exercises For Treating Sciatica?
An accurate diagnosis is necessary before any exercises for sciatica can be prescribed. Remember that sciatica is not a diagnosis but a set of signs and symptoms indicating that there is irritation or compression somewhere along the nerve roots that make up the sciatic nerve or the actual sciatic nerve itself. This irritation or compression can have its’ origin from several potential sources and as such ascertaining the origin of this irritation is key to the management of any sciatica symptoms. Subsequently the use of exercises for sciatica to provide relief require this understanding of symptomatic origin.
What Is The Purpose Behind Using Exercises For Sciatica?
Exercises for sciatica target offering symptomatic relief of pain which may be experienced in the lower back, buttocks, legs and/or feet. Relieving any pain associated with the compression or irritation of the nerve and any associated symptoms including tingling or numbness is the priority. Ultimately how any prescribed exercises can provide relief will depend on what the aim is. If the origin of sciatica symptoms is coming from one of the lumbar discs compressing a spinal nerve root, then it will clearly be managed differently to sciatica taking its origin from either spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, or piriformis syndrome… As a generalized rule in most situations exercises for sciatica are more beneficial than bed rest. This is the case for several reasons…
- in an extremely simplistic view exercise is important for fluid movement within the lumbar discs,
- strengthening of muscles around the trunk can assist in helping stabilise any unstable segments as in spondylolisthesis as well as generally contribute to supporting the spine and aiding good posture.
- As well as for the purpose of conditioning and stabilisation of the spine, strengthening and stretching exercises for sciatica can be important in preventing recurrence of symptoms through assisting in restoring muscle and nerve movement to their optimal range and prevention or management of any potential scar tissue formation.
Rest And More Rest Is Generally NOT The Answer
In the early stages when someone has a “bout” of sciatica and at times throughout their recovery it is possible that pain may make it difficult to do any exercises for sciatica. Making it tough for them to remain active, however despite this challenge extended bed rest is not advocated in most sciatica conditions. If bed rest is in fact deemed necessary, then it is usually only for a relatively short period just a few days at most. With managing sciatica pain, it is important that the individual is performing appropriate exercises for their specific condition, if strengthening is required and you are only doing stretching exercises, or vice versa then the results will quite likely be disappointing. It is also possible that certain exercises for sciatica may not only be ineffective with some of the causes of sciatica but may potentially worsen the condition. Therefore, it is always important to be properly assessed by an appropriate medical professional such as your general practitioner or physiotherapist prior to engaging in any exercises for sciatica rather than self-diagnosing and taking some exercises from google.
Exercises For Sciatica Should Be Specific And Individualized
Tailoring exercises for sciatica around the underlying cause in a specific, controlled and progressive nature makes up a substantial part of sciatica pain management. Goals around exercises for sciatica should target:
- Reducing sciatic pain and any other associated symptoms of sciatica.
- Providing the tissue conditioning as well as appropriate neuromuscular education and patterning to help prevent future recurrences of pain.
In situations where sciatica is a chronic condition and the individual has gone a significant period without carrying out any exercise and limited movement their back muscles and spinal structures may have become de-conditioned and less able to support their back during even normal and simple activities of daily living, let alone physical activity. Any de-conditioning and weakening of muscles around the spine can potentially lead to further back injury and strain, causing additional pain. This is also true of any reactive tightening because of inactivity, giving further reason why individually specific exercises for sciatica are so important in the rehabilitation of sciatic pain. In these situations, it would be quite easy despite best intentions, to aggravate someone with a generic one size fits all approach.
If you suspect, you have sciatic and don’t want to take a Dr Google approach to starting exercises for sciatica then booking in with your local physio is a great starting point to develop an understanding of the underlying cause of your sciatic symptoms and a targeted approach to your rehab and developing both short- and long-term guidelines.
Disclaimer: This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as a substitute for personalized medical advice. Sydney Physio Clinic does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products mentioned in this post. Anyone seeking specific advice, or assistance regarding “exercises for sciatica” should consult his, or her physiotherapist, orthopaedic surgeon, general practitioner, sports medicine specialist, or otherwise appropriately skilled medical practitioner.