Suddenly you have a pain running from your lower back or hip radiating to the back of your thigh and leg. If it’s on one side and it hurts like mad, it’s probably sciatica. But there are exercises you can do to help get you back on track.
First a few facts about sciatica: In addition to excruciating pain, you may also experience weakness, a "pins and needles" numbness, or a burning or tingling sensation down your leg. Usually the source of the pain is a swelling (herniated) back disc that places pressure on the sciatic nerve. Around one in every fifty of us will experience a herniated disk at some point in our lives. One quarter of these cases can last more than six weeks.
Before you attempt any of the suggested sciatica exercises, speak to a doctor. In fact, it’s always a good rule of thumb to get approval from your health care provider before trying any new exercises for sciatica nerve pain.
BACK STRETCH Lie flat on your back on the floor. Bring both your knees towards your chest. Next, wrap your arms around your legs and then place pressure on the area just beneath your knees. Hold for as long as is comfortable. This exercise offers your lower back a healing stretch. Release immediately if you feel increased pain.
QUADRICEP STRETCH Once again, use the hard surface of the floor, but this time lie flat on your stomach. Once you’re comfortable, bring your leg up to your buttocks. Grasp this leg using your hand on the same side of the body. You want to feel a stretching sensation. Hold it in this position for ten to twenty seconds; then repeat the process with the other leg. If you feel pain, discontinue the exercise.
SIMULTANEOUS MIDDLE AND LOWER BACK STRETCH: Lie flat on your back; then bend one leg at the knee at about a 90 degree angle while still keeping your foot flat on the floor. Next, bring one of your knees in this bent position towards the opposite side of your body and rest it on the floor for support. At the same time, try to keep your back flat and close to the floor. Stretch and maintain this for ten to twenty seconds. Repeat the process with the other side.
If you still have disabling sciatica pain after three months, surgery might be recommended to remove a part of the herniated disk and stop it from pressing on the nerve. This procedure can be done under local, spinal, or general anesthesia.
Robin Westen is ThirdAge’s Medical Director. Check for her daily updates. Her latest book, co-written with Dr. Alyssa Dweck, is V is for Vagina.
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