There is good news for those who suffer from sciatica. It's that there are a number of exercises to release sciatic nerve pain and these, combined with good natural treatment, can improve and control the pain in the long term.
What Is Sciatica?
Since the term is often misunderstood, it's worthwhile to be completely aware that sciatica refers to the pain that occurs when one or more nerves at the base of the spine, which comprise the sciatic nerve, are compressed or irritated. The condition can arise in a number of ways and the pain can be debilitating.
Exercise to Release Sciatic Nerve Pain
While most active back pain demands rest and gentle stretches, sciatica responds more efficiently to active exercise. In fact, the more time you spend in a state of inactivity, the worse the pain will become. Your back muscles will be weaker and thus less able to support the discs and nerves. Movement also keeps the spinal fluid flowing at its peak performance, enhancing back health.
As with any exercises for bad or weak backs, many of the exercises designed to release sciatic nerve pain focus on strengthening the abdominal and back muscles. This creates more support for the back and improves posture. Combine a gentle but effective abdominal workout with careful stretching exercises that target sciatica muscles and you can quickly recover from the immediate pain and prevent future recurrences.
Tai Chi and yoga are also considered some of the best exercises that release sciatic nerve pain, as they combine the all-important gentle stretching with targeted strengthening.
Yoga for Sciatic Nerve Pain
Yoga is an excellent form of exercise for people with back problems, provided it is done correctly, because it teaches you to focus on your core and to readily identify the areas of the body that need the most attention. With the right instructor, you will be able to work your way towards optimum back health.
A number of yoga poses do wonders for sciatic nerve pain. Among them are the Intense Side Stretch, Half-Moon Pose, Torso Twist, Bridge Pose, Corpse Pose and Downward Facing Dog. Your instructor should ask you if you have any particular conditions that might make any of the poses problematic. If you do, you should be able to perform a safe variant.
Tai Chi and Sciatica
Tai Chi, the ancient Chinese exercise that links mind to body and promotes health and healing through slow, graceful movements, is an excellent exercise to overcome the pain of sciatica. The practice views sciatica as the interruption of chi and concentrates on opening joints so as to improve flow and circulation. Tai Chi uses controlled, mostly circular movements that encourage flexibility and release mental and physical tension. You turn, stretch and twist, all while breathing deeply and entering a meditative state that helps you concentrate. When done correctly, tai chi will leave you feeling rejuvenated, rather than tired.
Stretches for Sciatica
Any exercise, especially for a health condition, should include stretching as well as muscle work. For sciatic nerve pain, you want to do stretches that release your hamstrings and gently work your back. Some of these will be the same exercises as you would do for bulging discs, such as lying on your back with knees bent and extending the pelvis upwards for a count of thirty. Try:
- Back Extension: Lie on the floor, face-down, with your arms out in front of you. Push your upper body up without taking your hips off the floor. You can do this stretch with your forearms resting on the floor or, if you feel you can go for a deeper stretch, straighten the arms (don't lock the elbows) and press your palms against the floor.
- Half Moon: Stand with your left hand on your left hip, feet about hip width apart. Slide your left foot out a bit and bend your right knee until your right palm can rest on the floor. Press your weight into your right heel and hand, then straighten your right leg. Extend the left leg so that it's perpendicular to your right leg and rotate your torso so that it's facing forward, not down. You can keep your left hand on your hip or extend it straight up. Look ahead if you're a beginner, or let your gaze follow your extended left hand.
- Child's Pose: Spine-Health.com lists this as a beneficial exercise for those suffering from sciatica caused by spinal stenosis. From your hands and knees, sit back on your ankles, leaving your arms outstretched. Rest your forehead on the floor and keep your chest down.
Consult a Professional
Before you begin even the simplest exercise program, you should consult with your doctor or a physical therapist as to the best exercises for your specific condition. This will assure that you are doing the most good for yourself and avoiding further injury.