Sciatica refers to shooting pain that occurs in the lower back and radiates into the buttock and down the back of the leg. This is one of the common causes for lower back pain and leg pain. Generally, this medical condition affects people in the 30-50 year age group.
Sciatica pain can happen due to conditions such as a herniated disc, trauma, osteoarthritis, stenosis, piriformis syndrome and spondylolisthesis which could potentially irritate or compress the sciatic nerve. Common symptoms associated with the condition include chronic pain, numbness, tingling and burning sensation, cramping and weakness in the muscles of the involved leg. The treatment approach for each person usually varies depending on the type of symptoms and the intensity of pain. Physical therapy can prove effective in reducing the debilitating pain and restoring movement.
Customized exercise programs under the guidance of a trained physical therapist/chiropractor would reduce the sciatic pain and help prevent future recurrences of the pain.
Exercises for Sciatica Pain
- Strengthening exercises – These help to build up or strengthen muscles and support spinal column, ligaments and tendons and include stability muscle exercises which are usually low intensity-long duration type exercises. On the other hand, dynamic strengthening exercises are of higher intensity in terms of weight, speed and power. These programs can provide pain relief as they support the spine and facilitate movements that extend or twist the spine with less risk of injury or damage.
- Stretching exercises – These are generally recommended to alleviate sciatica pain and stiffness. The stretches identify the muscles that cause pain when they are tight and inflexible.
- Aerobic exercises – Low impact cardiovascular exercises such as walking or swimming helps to reduce pain. It also helps in the exchange of fluids and nutrients to help create a better healing environment.
In addition to these exercise programs, the pain management programs offered by professional healthcare centers incorporate several effective passive modalities such as massage, myofascial release, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS), ice and heat application, traction, rehabilitation and injury prevention education.