Sciatic Discomfort? What You Should Avoid
The back is one of the body parts that has a very critical and important job. Not only does it support us, but it’s also the connection of the nervous system. It’s not surprising that it’s one of the first areas to be affected when we aren’t careful with the movements we make. That’s why we have to take a close look into our habits, because we might be slowly harming it, or if we suffer from conditions like sciatica, we might be making it worse without noticing.
Small daily changes accompanied by the best exercises for sciatica pain can help us have a better quality of life in the long run. But first, let’s identify those bad habits so we can break them and replace them with better ones.
The Sciatic Nerve and Its Importance to Our Well-Being
The sciatic nerve is the longest and largest nerve in the body, measuring three-quarters of an inch in diameter. The sciatic nerve originates in the sacral plexus: a network of nerves in the lower back (lumbosacral spine). The sciatic nerve and its nerve branches allow movement and sensation (motor and sensory functions) in the thigh, knee, calf, ankle, feet, and toes.
It’s very important that you learn to distinguish sciatic nerve discomfort from other ailments, since it will help us to deal with it in a much better way, starting with the best exercises for sciatica pain and changes in our habits.
Sciatica usually presents with discomfort that can vary from mild to acute and severe, like an electric shock. It usually occurs in the lower lumbar region and radiates down the back of the thigh, sometimes even reaching the calf. It can happen bilaterally but it usually affects only one side.
In a sciatica episode, there may be aching accompanied by paresthesia, which is decreased sensation, usually in the back of the thigh and the front of the leg. These symptoms may be reversible if the underlying cause is treated, and the nerve compression is resolved.
Why Is My Sciatica Getting Worse?
Symptoms may get worse after prolonged sitting, climbing stairs, walking, or running. But it can also get worse with these habits:
Cracking Your Back
Let’s be honest – many of us like the feeling of cracking the bones of the back to feel less tired after all the hours we spend working, but this habit can cause a lot of damage to your vertebrae and it can be dangerous if you do it too often.
Carrying Too Much Weight
If you’re one of those people who go to the gym and seek to sculpt your body with the help of dumbbells and discs, then you better be careful and level the weight. Carrying more than your body can handle not only leaves you prone to hernias but can also build up a lot of pressure on your spine and make your sciatica worse. If you’re feeling discomfort, it’s better to switch that routine and start looking for the best exercises for sciatica pain.
Exercising Without Warming Up
You might be doing the best exercises for sciatica pain relief, but if you’re not warming up, then you are causing more harm than good. Not warming up makes the body unprepared for movement, causing contractures.
Before doing any type of exercise, the best thing you can do is to stretch for at least 3 minutes so as not to feel the ravages afterward. Even better, consult a stretch practitioner that can guide you in the right direction.
Do you frequently dress in tight-fitting shorts, skirts, or pants? It’s possible that this is causing your sciatica to worsen. Your hips, glutes, legs, and maybe even your lower back and spine experience a lot of pressure from bottoms that are too tight. The sciatic nerve and the surrounding tissue are under constant pressure from this compression, which can cause distress.
High Heels and Uncomfortable Shoes
If you have sciatica and can’t seem to get rid of the discomfort, your high heels might be to blame. When you wear high heels, your body weight is distributed differently, putting pressure on your front foot and forcing your hips forward.
Your hamstrings are stretched when your pelvis is pushed forward during prolonged walking or standing. Due to the hamstrings’ proximity to the sciatic nerve, repeated stretching and pressure can seriously harm the nerve.
Shoes that are uncomfortable and lack cushioning can also be taxing on your hamstrings and feet. Avoid non-supportive shoes like flip-flops, and at the very least, aim to wear shoes with built-in support. Additionally, you can buy shoe insoles made expressly for those with sciatica.
Other Common Causes
Bad posture at work, spending many hours sitting at a computer, lifting weights in the wrong position or lack of exercise will weaken the muscles that should protect our spine, increasing the risk of our sciatic discomfort worsening. This is why you need to practice the best exercises for sciatic pain, such as practitioner assisted stretching, to strengthen your back.
How the Way You Sleep Intervenes in Sciatica
When you go to bed at night, the last thing you need is a bout of sciatica. And waking up in severe discomfort is a terrible way to start the day. Why isn’t going to bed giving your nerves a rest? Unfortunately, the bed can be one of the strongest triggers for sciatica discomfort to aggravate, let’s see why.
You Are Sleeping on Your Stomach
This is often the worst option for sciatica sufferers. When sleeping on your stomach, the pelvis rolls forward and flattens the spine’s natural curve. This causes the lower back to overextend and is the quickest way to trigger the sciatic nerve. If you’re used to sleeping on your stomach, it’s time to change your sleeping position. This one will never work for you.
If you can’t fall asleep without the prone position, place a pillow under your hips. This brings the spine closer to a neutral position and should help relieve discomfort.
You Are Sleeping on Your Side
Though it’s definitely a better option than sleeping on your stomach, it can still be detrimental. If you sleep on the side that has sciatica problems, the weight can aggravate the nerve root and make things worse.
If you lie on the unaffected side, this can cause the affected side to elevate too much and pinch the nerve. This can be reversed for some people; go ahead and experiment to see which side is best for your condition.
You’re Using the Wrong Mattress
A soft mattress can be your worst enemy. Even lying on your back, the best sleeping position for sciatica sufferers, can be detrimental on a soft bed. This is because your body sinks and can’t hold your spine in the desired position. Stretching before sleeping is one of the best exercises for sciatic pain. Loosening up your muscles, especially your quadriceps and lower back can help prevent discomfort while you sleep.
Sciatica, Being Overweight, and a Sedentary Life
Recurrent sciatica is all too prevalent if you are overweight and/or don’t exercise enough. The pelvis and lower back are put under stress and pressure by extra weight, particularly in the midsection. In the long run, this affliction is also made worse by inactivity and lack of physical activity.
You’re seriously harming yourself if you don’t move around and never give your body an opportunity to become stronger and more flexible.
Making a plan with the best exercises for sciatic discomfort, eating healthier, and including stretching in your weekly schedule will all help you feel better and prevent sciatica from becoming chronic.
Best Exercises for Sciatica
Numerous studies have found that there are a few methods for treating sciatica discomfort. Two of them are stretching and routinely engaging in low-impact exercises.
There are a few easy exercises that can help you reduce sciatica distress. This includes aerobic exercises to increase endurance and weight training to engage the core muscles that support the lower back.
Exercise with little impact improves circulation and helps to relax tense muscles. Warm up for the first 10 to 15 minutes with some low-impact aerobic exercise, like:
- Stationary cycling
- Water Exercises
When you begin your warm-up, your lower back, legs, or hips could feel tight or a little sore. That is normal. After a few minutes, the muscles should start feeling less tight. You should engage in this low-impact aerobic activity at least five times a week, and you should gradually lengthen your sessions as long as you don’t feel discomfort.
Stretching Is Crucial
Stretching makes your muscles become stronger and your joints become more durable, two things that can quickly deteriorate if you have sciatica. You should always include stretching as a part of your exercises for sciatica discomfort. Here you have a couple of reasons why:
Enhancing Joint Function
Regardless of whether you suffer from sciatica or other type of discomfort, it’s likely that your joints aren’t getting the activity they require to function at their best. Stretching increases your range of motion by releasing tight muscles and other joint tissue. That’s why it is one of the best exercises for sciatica.
A more flexible physique enables you to move your body as it was meant to be moved, which improves coordination. Usually, this means having better dexterity and balance.
Practitioner Assisted Stretching
A stretch practitioner can guide you through the process to make the most of it, personalize your experience, and prevent injuries.
- When you have a skilled stretch practitioner, you can progress into the stretch a little bit more each time in a secure setting. This makes sure that you stay out of the “danger zone.”
- To stretch the muscles, the expert will make sure the stretch is performed properly and that the body’s limbs are placed in the right positions.
Stretches that concentrate on the piriformis muscle are the most effective for treating sciatica. Your hip joint is stabilized and rotated by this muscle, which produces inflammation when it gets tight or overused.
Remember, these stretches are guided by a stretch practitioner.
1. Knee-To-Chest Stretch
The lower back and hip muscles are the main targets of this stretch. Making space for the nerves to evacuate the lower spine, reducing strain on the spinal nerves.
Simply lay on your back, grip your knee, and begin to slowly bring it toward your chest to execute this stretch.
2. Towel Hamstring Stretch
It accomplishes two key things. First of all, it makes the hamstrings more flexible. It also makes the hip’s range of motion better. This makes carrying out regular duties simpler and lessens the fatigue of bending over. Simply lay on your back, place a towel or strap under your foot, and, keeping your leg straight, pull your leg up until you feel a stretch down the back of your leg.
3. Piriformis Stretch
This one helps to increase the range of motion while also reducing discomfort along the sciatic nerve.
On your back, bend one knee while keeping the other leg flat on a mat or floor. Cross the ankle over the bent knee of the opposing leg. Gently nudge the inside of the knee of the crossed leg. The crossed leg should provide a stretch in the back of your buttock.
Avoid These Exercises
As stated before, moving will help you feel better by releasing stiff muscles. However, several motions and activities might strain the thighs, hips, and/or lower back and exacerbate symptoms. If you have sciatica, you should generally stay away from these exercises: twisting, running, leaping, and other high-impact activities.
Do You Want to Know the Best Exercises for Sciatic Pain? Give Us a Call!
The discomfort caused by the sciatic nerve can be difficult to cope with for anyone who suffers from it. However, if you follow the recommendations provided by a specialist and focus on replacing bad habits with good ones, this discomfort will eventually go away.
Do not hesitate to contact us at Stretch Zone, where we can design a personalized plan for your needs. Try a free 30-minute stretch!