I Exercise Regularly, So Why Do I Have Sciatica Pain?

Sciatica pain is a symptom of a pinched sciatic nerve, which is the largest single nerve in your body that runs from each side of your lower spine, branches through each side of your buttocks and down the back of the each thigh, and runs down to the foot. This nerve can become pinched by issues with the disks of your spine or by a tight piriformis muscle.

Sciatica pain may or may not have accompanying low back pain. It usually starts in the buttock and radiates down your leg, as usually only one leg is affected. The degree of pain varies from mild to intense. You might describe it as sharp and searing, tingly, and even numbing. The pain seems to resolve, or at least feel better, when you walk or lie down, and worsens as you sit or stand. Of course, diagnosis from Dr. Wu confirms your suspicions of sciatica.

Keeping your back strong and healthy with exercise helps ward off sciatica pain, but it’s not a guarantee. Sometimes, overuse from exercise may exacerbate sciatica issues. And, while exercise and stretching is often prescribed as part of a comprehensive sciatica treatment plan, it’s not always a cure for the pain. Read on to understand why your exercise choices may actually aggravate sciatica.

You crunch and bend

A strong core promotes a strong back, which can help with back and sciatic pain. But traditional crunches and sit-ups can put pressure on the sciatic nerve and cause more pain. Hinging forward aggressively, such as doing Forward Folds in yoga, can also be aggravating.

Instead of these moves, train your core with planks and standing rotations. Don’t skip yoga, but modify forward folds by bending your knees during a fold and hinge from the hips just until your hands touch your thighs.

You skip stretching

If Dr. Wu suspects a tight piriformis muscle is compressing your sciatic nerve, it’s imperative that you stretch it. This small muscle sits deep in your butt, behind the large gluteus maximus. It starts at the lower spine and connects to each thighbone. It’s useful in rotating your hip and turning the leg and foot outward. So yoga stretches such as Pigeon and Lizard Lunge are good ways to get at it.

You choose hard surfaces

If you run, hard surfaces, such as concrete or asphalt, force you to absorb a lot of impact. This compresses the vertebrae in your spine, which might cause irritation of the sciatic nerve.

Choose trails or the treadmill for your running workouts instead. Also, concentrate on running with a shorter stride, so you reduce your bounce and incur less impact. Try weaving in some cross training during the week. Swim and do some upper body strength training to give your legs, butt, and back a break.

You’re not giving it enough time

Exercise is a better option than bed rest when it comes to resolving sciatica pain, but this therapy takes time. Plus, the exercises you choose should not only address your immediate symptoms but must also include moves that prevent it from recurring or worsening in the future. Dr. Wu can help you choose exercises that stretch and strengthen your glutes and core to reduce compression, balance muscle activation, and lessen pain.

If sciatica pain is getting in the way of your active lifestyle, call the office or click the online scheduler to make an appointment.

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