What is it?
The sciatic nerve is the single largest nerve inside the human body that runs from the base of the spine, through the buttocks and thighs, all the way to the toes. It plays a vital role and connects the nervous system from the spine to the lower section of the body.
Sciatica is the irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve, which causes pain, numbness and tingling down one or both legs. Sometimes the sciatic nerve can be compressed by muscle or joints due to misalignment or even aggravation, which includes being inactive.
If you suffer, or have ever suffered from Sciatica, it can really impact your day to day life in a negative way. Sitting, moving, exercising, pretty much anything can trigger an uncomfortable feeling that may constantly radiate in one place more than others or move around a broader area on the body. This usually stems from around the top of the glutes and can radiate all the way down to the bottom of the leg.
Sciatica can affect any of us and requires a change of lifestyle or habit to ease any pain and/or discomfort. Having suffered from sciatica myself, I've tried a few different techniques and changes to my lifestyle to combat the feeling of discomfort, one of those being foam rolling. The feeling of applying pressure to an area of discomfort helps to relieve the symptoms temporarily and foam rolling does just that, although, applying pressure to the area of pain doesn't necessarily cure the cause.
Sciatica tends to be a catalyst for a lot of low back pain issues suffered from many of us today.
Will it ever go away?
The answer here is difficult to conclude because there are so many factors that can affect it. There are some people that learn to deal with the uncomfortable feeling of sciatic pain whereas some people manage to alleviate the pain altogether. There are some things that can help to alleviate sciatic pain which generally circle around stretching and strengthening muscles around the hips and legs.
I found that stretching the Glutes and lower back area in particular can help to alleviate pressure and pain caused from sciatica.
Some strengthening exercises can bring the same relief as stretching or foam rolling, which generally involve strengthening of the glutes and hamstrings, although, this is a generalisation and it is all dependant on any muscular imbalances you may have as an individual. Having a posture analysis assessment may help to discover these imbalances and, with the help of a qualified coach, correct them to avoid any sciatic pain.
The pain that comes with sciatica is not just physical and there is a huge psychological bane that we have to brunt with it. It affects us at home, at work, when we sleep, when we eat, just about anywhere, and this can be on of the hardest obstacles to overcome. This can negatively affect mood and even go as far as negatively affecting actions, therefore it is important to understand that the pain caused by sciatica can be alleviated if we can focus on the positives and pursue the actions that help to relieve such pain.
What exercises do I need to do?
The best advice when it comes to exercises to combat the aching signs of sciatica, we can look no further than functional movements. Functional movements broken down are movements that use more than one muscle group in more than one plane of movement. A diagonal squat jump would be a perfect example of a functional move. We aim to keep the exercise as realistic as possible to everyday movements to avoid incorrect movements when performing them in everyday life. This idea of keeping movements as realistic and natural as possible will also help with fluidity of movement, which effectively, shouldn’t aggravate the sciatic nerve. Classes such as pilates and yoga are also very beneficial for sciatic pain sufferers.
Rather than exercise, stretching and foam rolling should be at the forefront of the mind when it comes to sciatica. The unrivalled feeling of hitting a sweet spot of relief in a tight muscle with a foam roller is a small victory to any sciatic pain bearer. If you’re not sure what foam rolling is, click here.
I don't have sciatica but how do I stop myself from getting it?
Stay mobile, stay active, as mentioned before, sciatica tends to stem from being inactive, amongst other things, so exercise should be implemented into your lifestyle in some way.
The best piece of advice I can give to you on the subject of sciatica is to be aware of your posture. Posture plays such a massive part in how our body function’s, seated posture in particular. With the world becoming evermore computer based, a lot of jobs are spent seated and looking at a computer screen. This is a recipe for disaster for our bodies, that were designed to be active, especially if seated posture is poor.
Posture is important as it can affect muscles through the entire body. For instance, bad posture can force a muscular pull against the pelvis that in turn, can pull against the hamstrings that can effectively, tighten the back of the leg and hips. This can easily compress areas around the hips that can lead to pressure on the sciatic nerve. It is important that your back is in a neutral position, head facing forwards and knees in line with the ankles. Try to get up out of your chair at regular intervals to take breaks from your desk which acts as a dynamic stretch (stretching with movement).
If you'd like to know more about posture analysis and prevention of issues like sciatica then click here