What is Sciatica?
Sciatica, or sciatic nerve pain, is a condition in which the sciatic nerves in the body become inflamed. Sciatic nerves are found beginning at the lower spine and continue down the buttocks area, back of the legs, and into the feet. Symptoms of sciatica is characterized by a light tingling feeling or burning sensation to a full blown shooting pain that travels from the lower back, buttocks area, back of legs, and/or feet. More often than not, sciatic nerve pain affects only one side, although it could also be possible to run down both legs.
Have you ever experienced such excruciating pain that standing up becomes a great difficulty?
Sometimes, sitting down makes the pain even worse. A lot of people may be doing something so simple and yet a certain body movement would cause them unbearable pain. You may be experiencing sciatica.
For some people not only will they feel pain but they may find that their leg become numb and they will have problems in trying to either move or control their leg.
Sciatica could be a frightening experience especially if you do not realize what is happening. One may begin to feel like he/she will become crippled. However, most of the time sciatica can be treated effectively.
Causes of Sciatica
Sciatica may occur when the nerve in the lower spine become pinched, or if there is a slipped disk. Arthritis or a sprained ligament will narrow the passageways of the nerves which may cause the nerve endings to become tender and inflamed. Other causes of sciatica include an abscess, growth, or blood clot. But these can be rare.
Why Back Problems Tend to Hang Around
Your back is a complicated mechanical system with many moving parts. This is why the condition of the surrounding muscles is so important in supporting it and holding everything in alignment.
Studies have shown the muscles that provide support to your back behave differently to other muscles.
The key difference is that they are slower to automatically "switch back on" (i.e. return to their previous level of function) after an injury or a strain.
Unless they are triggered by exercise, they can take a long time to return to their previous level of function.
Worst case without the right exercise, they may never return to full function and so your back doesn't get the support it needs.
When these supporting muscles are working properly, they respond to signals from your brain by clenching or bracing fractionally before a strain impacts your back.
This means your back is supported as the strain arrives and so the chance of (further) injury or strain is reduced.
When this mechanism is not working properly and the muscles don't trigger, your back is left unsupported and thus you are more likely to re-injure or strain your back.
This is why back problems can be so difficult to get rid of once you start having them and why you can suffer from recurring back problems.
This is also the reason regular exercise is so important - it helps to keep your supporting muscles active and able to do their job.
Exercises for Sciatica
By doing the right back exercises the right way, you have a great chance of stopping your sciatica and back pain and keeping your back healthy and strong.
Although many people may feel that bed rest is the best way for treating sciatica this is simply not true. Yes resting for a day or two can help to relieve the pain felt when the sciatica flares up but after that, because a person has become inactive, they will find that the pain actually becomes much worse.
This is because without them carrying out any kind of exercise or movement the muscles in the back and their spine will lose its condition and will then find it very difficult to support the back properly. The weakening of the back could lead to injuries and this will only then increase the amount of pain that the person is feeling.
Exercise is actually extremely important to our spine especially in order to keep the discs within the spine healthy. By carrying out movement a person is actually enable nutrients and fluids to gain access to these discs which in turn ensures that they remain fit and healthy.
Many of the sciatica exercises you will see being presented to you by your doctor, health care provider or by websites providing information on exercises for treating this problem will focus on strengthening both the muscles in your back and abdomen. By strengthening these muscles a person is actually providing their back with more support.
Stretching exercises are especially good for treating sciatica as they target those muscles which are causing the pain because they have become tense (tight) and not as flexible as they should be. People who take up sciatica exercises find that it helps to strengthen and stretch the back muscles and they can recover much more quickly when they suffer a flare up of sciatica in the future. Plus it has also been found that it actually helps to prevent them from suffering future episodes of sciatica pain.
The most common sciatica exercises that are recommended for the treatment of sciatica related pain are the Hamstring stretching exercises.
The hamstrings are the muscles located in the back of the thigh and help in bending the knee. You must also perform exercises to strengthen the abdominal muscles in order to get relief from the sciatica pain. You can consult exercise experts or take the help of back exercise videos to learn specific exercises to relieve sciatica pain.
However the actual sciatica exercises a person will use to treat the problem will depend on what the actual cause of the pain is. Plus it is important that you should know that this type of pain can be caused by some other underlying medical condition such as an infection or tumor which will need to be treated as well using the right kind of medical procedures.
Even if your back already hurts, or is strained, there is a good chance that you can make it better.
(Note: If you're sick, or your back really hurts and you think you've injured yourself, make sure you see a health practitioner first.)
If you don't exercise reasonably regularly, especially as you age, the muscles supporting and surrounding your back will eventually get weak and stiff.
Then these muscles won't be able to work well enough when you most need them to - when you put a strain on your back.
This means it's much more likely that your will injure your back when you do place a strain - even a small strain - on it.
Your back can get injured from an action as simple as reaching for something on your desk, or from a more obvious strain such as lifting something heavy, especially if your posture is bad as you do it.
Things You Can Do To Help Your Back
1. Stand upright and pay attention to posture - don't slouch.
2. Sit upright at your desk with your lower back slightly curved. Don't slump in your chair or hunch over your keyboard. Set your workstation up correctly - screen at eye level.
3. Change your position frequently. Get up and walk around every 20-30 minutes even if it's only for 30 seconds.
4. Eat healthily and manage your weight. Extra weight, especially around your waist, strains your back. A simple diet with a good selection of fresh foods is one of the keys to overall health.
5. Do specific back strengthening exercises. (Find out about the Better Back System).
6. Also exercise to strengthen your stomach and 'core' muscles which help support your back.
7. Push rather than pull heavy objects. If you're lifting something heavy, use your leg muscles and hold it close to your body. Don't bend over and strain your back.
We recommend the Better Back System which you can try this at home to see if it works for you without any risk. It uses a set of special exercises that you can do at home in about 5 minutes a day with a 97% chance of success and without having to trek to the gym, or fill your cupboard full of equipment.
There's no mystery really! When you take action on a few key things, you're on the road to a better back, ending your back pain and sciatica and ensuring good health.