Published on May 1, 2013
Sciatica symptoms can include lower back pain, buttock pain, and pain in various parts of the thigh, leg and foot. It is important to receive a proper diagnosis prior to partaking in any of the exercises prescribed so that your condition does not worsen.
Exercise is the most important and effective way to prevent and treat sciatica. Active therapy is key when treating pain and preventing chronicity from occurring. There is often reluctance from physicians and therapist to enforce active movement to their patients as patients often seek passive treatments that require little work and effort. The reason being, active therapy can be challenging and requires ongoing effort. But, results prove that this method helps patients manage their pain long-term.
Types of Sciatica Exercises:
In general, walking is usually one of the safest forms of exercise that can be done for general back pain and sciatica. Fast paced walking helps to prevent muscle atrophy and weakness. As well, it promotes mobility and increases blood flow and circulation that will assist with the inflammatory process. Walking, if tolerable, is one of the best forms of exercise for your body because it is a natural movement and weight bearing. It forces you to move your body in a coordinated fashion that strengthens your postural muscles and pelvic muscles, especially your glutes which stabile your pelvis. Furthermore, walking applies tension to your fascia (layer of connective tissue that surrounds muscles etc.), which keeps it strong and healthy and supports human movement and decreases stress to your spine. Walking uphill is a great type of movement for individuals that suffer from Spinal Stenosis that is causing their sciatica.
Swimming is an excellent form of sciatica exercise that is non-weight bearing and is very helpful for patients who cannot tolerate loading their spine against gravity. It is also a great cardiovascular exercise that can used to promote recovery and regeneration as it increases blood flow and circulation by approximately seven times. It is easier on your lower body and your joints, without increasing stress. Be cautious if you have shoulder injuries, you may not realize the impact swimming has while you are in the water.
Chronic pain patients often find doing water exercises in hot pools very therapeutic. The warm water provides good sensory feedback for the entire body and promotes movement that will increase blood flow and circulation to assist with healing. As well, your body does not have to work against gravity. Movements in pain free ranges of motion will stimulate the brain to make new neural connections that reorganize your brain back to its natural state of being able to move without the sensation of pain. To enjoy the benefits of water, you don’t need to be a ‘qualified’ swimmer. Simply walking in pool or using an aquabelt for deep water walking and/or running is a great workout with no impact!
Specific Conditions and Recommended Sciatica Exercises:
- Disc Herniation – if you find relief in a neutral position or extending backward, typically walking and swimming will help as your means of movement. If your pain worsens when bending forward, you should avoid uphill walking.
- Spinal stenosis – if you find relief with bending forward, try riding an exercise bike. This allows the spine to bend slightly forward and prevents impact.
In general, swimming is a great all around exercise that is non-weight bearing and will help to unload the spine.