Often associated with low back pain, sciatica tends to be more of a pain in the butt -- and sometimes also the leg. That's because the pain travels along the sciatic nerves, the longest nerves in your body.
Each sciatic nerve runs bilaterally from the base of your spine through the deep muscles of your buttocks and down the back of a leg.
In the preceding two articles in this series, I helped you understand more about the possible origins of your back pain and how to begin finding relief through exercise. Now we focus on assisting those who are suffering specifically with sciatica.
No magic bullet for sciatic pain
When injured, compressed or irritated, a sciatic nerve causes significant discomfort, including shooting pain in typically one side of your bottom, unabating painful tingling, or numbness and weakness down the back of one or both legs. As many as 40% of adults experience sciatica in the course of a lifetime, experts have estimated. Unfortunately, without proper treatment, the condition can become chronic.
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If you've experienced sciatic pain, you've probably spent hours searching the internet for ways to make it stop, only to encounter conflicting advice. That's because sciatica is a symptom of numerous conditions that respond to different treatments. The most common causes originate from either nerve compression coming from the lumbar spine, or nerve impingement due to muscle tension in the buttocks, trapping the sciatic nerve.
With sciatica's varying causes, there isn't a single magic bullet for relief. However, the right corrective exercises, done regularly, can be effective in not only relieving sciatica but also preventing it. Read on for techniques to try to help you determine the cause of your pain and the best ways to alleviate it.
Exercises for relief and prevention
You may feel your most significant sciatic nerve pain in the muscles of your butt or down your leg, but that pain doesn't necessarily mean it originates there. Although muscle tension in your hips could be causing the pain, the pressure on the nerve could also be coming from your low back due to spinal compression and pelvis position. That's why you should try different exercises that address those different areas to see how your pain responds.
Below, I describe the best approaches to take to determine the origins of your pain and share exercises you should do for relief and prevention. When practicing any exercises, stop immediately if your pain increases or feels "wrong."
The exercises noted below are designed to address the most common causes of sciatica, but not all types of back pain respond to the same remedy, so not all exercises will work for everyone.
Important note: Talk with your doctor to understand the source of your pain and get approval before beginning any exercise program.