Sciatica is caused by irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve which branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down to each leg. It is one of the most common causes for low back and leg pain. It primarily affects people between the age group of 30-50 years.
The shooting pain typically occurs on only one side of the body. Several conditions can irritate or compress the sciatic nerve such as a herniated disk, bone overgrowth on vertebrae, piriformis syndrome, trauma, osteoarthritis, stenosis and spondylolisthesis. The most common symptoms include debilitating pain, numbness, tingling and burning sensation, cramping and weakness in the muscles of the involved leg.
Treatment for sciatica pain could include medication, injections to relive pain, and physical therapy (PT) and surgery is recommended only when these options fail to work. Here, we take a look at some PT exercises that can help relieve the compression of the sciatic nerve, reduce pain, and prevent future episodes of pain. PT programs incorporate a unique combination of strengthening, stretching, and aerobic conditioning.
- Strengthening exercises – These workouts include stability muscle workouts which are usually low-intensity programs as well as dynamic strengthening workouts which are more intensive in terms of weight, speed and power. They can help strengthen the spinal column and the supporting muscles, ligaments and tendons. They focus on the lower back area as well as the abdominal (stomach) muscles and gluteus (buttocks) and hip muscles. Fortifying these core muscles that support spine would provide pain relief, keeping it in alignment and facilitating movements that extend or twist the spine with less chance of injury or damage.
- Stretching exercises – Stretching is usually recommended to alleviate sciatic pain and stiffness. Stretches are designed to identify the core muscles that cause aches when they are tight and inflexible. Stretching exercises include Hamstring stretch, piriformis stretch, pigeon pose, seated hip stretch and self-trigger point therapy.
- Aerobic exercises – Aerobic conditioning has the unique benefit of releasing endorphins that reduce pain. These include low-impact cardiovascular workouts such as walking, swimming or pool therapy.
At a professional healthcare center, the physical therapist will provide you with a customized treatment plan, including exercises to address the specific cause of your sciatica pain.