Back Pain and Sciatica
Sciatica is the term used to define the pain in the lower extremity, resulting from the irritation of the sciatic nerve. This nerve extends from the lower back or lumbar area down the back of the legs, so the pain is typically felt in the low back region, as well as behind the thighs and right below the knee.
Because the sciatic nerve sends endings to the lower limbs, when it becomes irritated, the pain is accompanied by a burning and tingling sensation down the legs, weakness and difficulty moving your foot or leg, and constant pain in the lower body, on the side of the affected nerve. The pain usually gets worse when sitting, but standing up can also be a problem due to the shooting pain which occurs when there is pressure on the legs.
People with lumbar spinal stenosis, those with spondylolisthesis or degenerative disc disease are more likely to suffer from sciatica, but the condition is likely to occur in pregnant women as well, due to the increasing load and pressure exerted by the growing belly. Overweight (20 pounds over recommended weight) people and those with weak muscles in the back and legs are also more prone to this condition than those with a normal BMI range / weight, and who regularly practice physical activity.
Although in most cases sciatica pain goes away after bed rest and stretching exercises, 10% to 15% of people dealing with this condition will be told they require surgery for easing the pain. Avoid Surgery with Regenerative Medicine (Stem Cells, PRP, Laser Therapy)
Sciatica pain occurs more often in people with degenerative arthritis of the lumbar spine, in those with lumbar disc disease and injuries in the lower back area, the most common cause of this health problem being the herniation of lumbar discs that press directly on the sciatic nerve. The constant pressure and the friction cause irritation to the sciatic nerve, triggering the previously mentioned symptoms.
Still, the cause of inflammation in the low back area can reproduce the signs of sciatica, so for example if one has an abnormal inter-vertebral disc, which compresses the nerve, this can also generate sciatica. Irritation of the muscles in the lower back, injuries or infections of the bones and muscles in that region can trigger sciatica and worsen the already present pain.
Without any doubt a disturbing condition, sciatica can be more than an irritating problem that prevents one from performing certain movements. This pain can become very intense and debilitating, interfering with one’s ability to sit down or stand for longer periods of time. Moving from one point to another can also become difficult when the pain is intense, as sciatica causes lower extremity weakness and numbness in the legs as well. Stem Cells regenerate healthy cells able to heal the inflamed areas.
Three different approaches can be implemented when it comes to treating sciatica pain: rest, exercises and regenerative medicine.
Although somehow counter-intuitive, exercises actually help more with relieving the pain than bed rest, as they address the potential underlying causes of pain. Inactivity on the other hand can make the muscles even stiffer and worsen the pain, especially if the patient has to spend prolonged periods of time in a position that causes pressure on the nerve.
What type of exercises are the best for coping with sciatica? Mainly those targeting the back muscles, as these help in restoring the spinal structure, and conditioning the core muscles in order to offer proper support for the spine. Besides conditioning the muscles, exercises also improve the blood flow and the delivery of nutrients to the spinal discs, so they can help in preventing the pressure exerted on the nerve by damage discs.
Typically, a self-recovery program for sciatica should include exercises that target the abdomen and back muscles, such as light strength and stretching exercises, meant to relax and to make the tight and inflexible muscles more elastic. As studies have shown, core stability exercises are more effective in decreasing the pain and improving the physical function in patients with chronic low back pain, so these might also be efficient in sciatica.
Hamstring stretching exercises can also help, as overly tight hams can put more pressure on the sciatic nerve, making the symptoms worse.
Light aerobic exercises can be beneficial in relieving the pain and walking is a good option. It’s recommended for patients with sciatica to avoid intense workouts and cardio training sessions that involve exercises of high impact, such as jumping.
Still, keep in mind that before engaging in a recovery program, you should get properly diagnosed, as the type of exercises you can perform depends on the trigger of your symptoms. Also, it’s very important to do the exercises under supervision, at least until you learn how to perform them correctly, as neglecting form can worsen this condition and make the exercises ineffective.