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Status:Closed    Asked:Mar 11, 2013 - 10:38 AM

What are the best exercises for sciatica?

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Sciatica is one of the most common variations of low back pain. In approximately 90% of the cases, sciatica is caused by a herniated disc in the lower spine that irritates the sciatic nerve, which emerges from the lower back and passes through the hip and then branches out as it leads down the leg toward the foot. When the sciatic nerve is compressed or irritated, it can send radiating pain down the hip, leg, and foot. Sciatic pain subsides in 70% of those suffering from it after about 6 to 8 weeks. Treatment consists of pain relief and anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and in some severe cases surgery. Because sciatica is a nerve-related back problem, it is always best to have it evaluated by a physician so that the best treatment plan can be developed.

Aerobic exercise (such as walking) and stretching are often recommended for sciatica. In fact, inactivity can make the pain worse. Without exercise and movement, the back muscles and spinal structures become less able to support the back. This weakening can lead to further back strain, which causes additional pain. In addition, exercise is important for the health of the spinal discs because regular movement helps exchange nutrients and fluids within the discs to keep them healthy and prevent pressure on the sciatic nerve. Gentle stretching is beneficial for a current bout of sciatica and also for overall back health and for preventing or reducing future flare-ups of sciatic pain. Because bending forward (as in reaching for the toes) often causes pain in individuals with sciatica, stretches that involve spinal extension (bending backward) are recommended. However, in some cases due to a condition called spinal stenosis, sciatic sufferers feel pain in back extension, so the recommended stretches for those individuals involve forward bending or lying on the back and pulling the knees in toward the chest.

Clearly, sciatica is a complicated condition that requires an individualized approach to treatment. Therefore, specific exercises for the relief and prevention of sciatic pain should be provided by a healthcare professional.


Mar 11, 2013 - 10:39 AM

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