This week I started training a new client that suffers from major back, hip, and leg pain. She basically has a serious case of Sciatica. You probably have heard of this condition before, and you may actually suffer from the same type of pain.
So I wanted to dedicate this new blog post about what sciatica is, the common causes, recommendations to alleviate the pain, and what NOT to do. (I sound like I am making a fitness award speech, ha!). So let’s look at how to treat the most common cause of hip and back pain.
Your sciatic nerve, is a nerve that runs from the top of your lower back through your glute muscle and down the back of your leg. When inflammation around this nerve develops, it compresses and ‘pinches’ this specific nerve. (I think we can both agree that ANY type of pinching isn’t pleasant)
Because of this compression around the nerve, pain is stimulated from the lower back, and sometimes even down the back of the leg.
As stated above, Sciatica is caused my inflammation around the nerve. But what CAUSES the inflammation in the first place?
1) Low back pain stemming from a different condition or injury. Many times when you have a herniated disc in your lower back, this inflammation can contribute to sciatica. Other sources of low back pain can include but not limited to: Poor posture, normal wear and tear on the spine from repetitive motions, scoliosis poor lifting technique ( and this can be as simple as picking up a paper clip off the floor), and finally, sitting for long periods of time ( YES-I am talking to you Mr./Mrs. Computer addict).
2) Pregnancy can cause Sciatica if the baby is in an unusual position, and pushing on the nerve.
3) Tight glute muscles stemming from overuse. Sometimes when we do repetitive motions such as squats, bicycling, running etc, our glute muscles can get inflamed, and really rest and stretching is the best cure.
Let me first say that I AM NOT A DOCTOR, however being a corrective exercise specialist, I am been forced to be very knowledgeable of conditions causing pain, specially when exercising.
If your sciatica is caused by a herniated disc, it is imperative that you work with your doctor to determine the motions and exercises that will help alleviate your pain. I will say, if this is you, to avoid forward bending at all costs.
For the rest of the causes, the main strategy is the following:
1) Glute Stretching
2) Hip Stability Exercises
3) Outer Hip Mobility Exercises
4) Lower back/Core Strengthening exercises. (and I am talking about the DEEPEST layer of the core)
A BIG thanks to my sister Kelli Durrance for providing the exercise pictures below. She is a master yoga trainer and yoga instructor with yoga alliance as well as a personal trainer. You can check out her website by clicking HERE
Place the left foot on the floor about a foot away from your body. Bring your right leg towards your chest and gently cross the right ankle over the left knee. Keep both feet lightly flexed. Now, gently walk the left foot closer towards your body until you can reach through to grasp the back of the left thigh or the front of the shin. Use your hands (or a strap) to gently pull yourself deeper into the stretch. Hold for 30-90 seconds and repeat on other side.
Get into seated position where your feet are pressed together right in front of your pelvis. You can make this less or more intense by either moving your feet closer to your pelvis, or father away. Sit up nice and tall with your hands rested on your feet. If you want a deeper stretch, press your elbows down against the top of your knees. Hold for 30-90 seconds.
Get into a table top position by placing your hands directly below the shoulders, and knees directly below your hips. Knees should be about hip width apart. Starting with the right leg, draw a circle with your knee, starting by bringing the knee towards your chest, then out to the side, and back around to the starting position. Then make circles the opposite way, initiating the movement with the knee extending away from your chest, then out to the side, then back around to the starting position. You can do 10 circles each way, and repeat on other side.
Normally I would say doing deadlifts for strengthening the lower back, but since that is a bent over movement, we are going to use a more simple exercise:
Lie on your belly with your palms resting underneath the shoulders (elbows tucked in) and your feet together on the floor. Exhale, engaging the abdominals. Inhale and look forward, gently lifting your chest up off the floor (the lower ribs and everything below them stay on the floor!). Start holding this position for 5 seconds, then come back down. You can work up to holding the position longer. Perform 10-15 repetitions.
Any type of plank is great, in addition to the below exercise. But it is easy to perform the plank wrong by really using your thighs.
Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent. Bend your pelvis up slightly to create a small arch in your lower back, then flatten your back against the floor by tightening your abdominal muscles. Start by holding for 10 seconds, then repeat. Work up to 1 minute holds.
Place both feet on the ground, about hip distance apart so that your thighs and feet are in line with one another. As you inhale, lift your tailbone and slowly peel your spine away from the floor, coming into bridge pose. As you exhale, release your spine with control, vertebrae by vertebrae. This should be done gently with an emphasis on keeping the length of the spine – don’t go very high if you experience any pain. Perform 10-15 repetitions.
Would you like a comprehensive fitness program that incorporates exercises like these to help with your specific health conditions? Check out my online personal training plans. It would be an honor to work with you! CLICK HERE