Stretching Exercises to Reduce Sciatica Back Pain

Sciatica is now officially one of the most common forms of lower back pain. Over 80% of adults suffer from back pain at some stage. Sciatica is the one form that people fear the most.

Sciatica can be a debilitating condition where movement and day to day life is painful. The pain radiates down the leg to the foot if severe, it creates a sickening type pain that affects you emotionally as much as it does physically.

Although most of you will have heard the horror stories of how sciatica is caused by disc injuries, spinal stenosis or other major lower back pain issues. In fact – less than 10% of sciatic nerve irritation is created by these conditions. Most sciatic nerve irritation comes from 3 simple processes.

Correcting these 3 processes gives you the 3 steps to sciatica relief.

Step One: The sciatic nerve is formed from five nerve roots exiting the lower back region. If the lower back joints or muscles are irritated then sciatica may develop.

Step one is therefore to balance the lower back, which can be simply performed by using stretches and joint techniques for the area.

Step Two: The pelvis is the foundation for the spine. If the pelvis is distorted then sciatica occurs. You can notice pelvic distortion by having your pelvis at different heights, twisted, leg length changes or shoulder twisting. These all indicate pelvic distortion which will irritate the sciatic nerve.

Step two therefore requires you to correct the pelvic alignment and ease pressure off the sciatic nerve.

Step Three: probably the easiest and most common irritant to the sciatic nerve – the Piriformis muscle. As the sciatic nerve runs through the Piriformis muscle, when it tightens sciatica develops quickly.

Step three is essential to eliminate sciatica and maintain permanent sciatica relief. Sciatica stretching should incorporate the Piriformis muscle, and stretching should be three times each day, with one session just prior to bed. If you stretch the muscle and then use it (walking, lifting or general activity) the benefit of the stretch disappears. Stretching if done before bed will relax the muscle and then sleep helps to maintain this relaxed position for a longer period of time.

Sciatica stretching of the Piriformis muscle is essential for sciatica relief.

You may now be asking – how do you perform steps one, two and three. These 3 steps to eliminate sciatica can be performed at home in your own time easily. Self help sciatica relief will help the 90% of people who have common sciatica. Those with the more severe conditions will need professional help, although using these 3 steps of sciatica relief will create benefit.

For more in depth details of these 3 steps to Sciatica Relief, visit the Back Pain Advisor and view their web pages on Sciatica, Sciatica Relief and Sciatica Stretching.

Sciatica comes about either due to a traumatic event, muscle imbalances, or a combination of both...

The event scenario is most likely the catalyst for sudden onset of sciatic pain. So what happens when there is undue stress on the Piriformis muscle that stress causes it to go into spasm and then you have pain due to the Piriformis muscle putting pressure on the sciatic nerve.

In most cases, people go to physical therapy or minimize their physical activity to break the pain - spasm cycle and in most cases your symptoms subside. However, the event will also set you up for a lifetime of sciatic pain if the Piriformis muscle does not recover 100% in both strength and flexibility.

When you have an injury to a muscle, both strength and flexibility are compromised, and if your recovery ends before strength and flexibility return, you will never be 100% and will likely struggle with the problem forever.

The other way sciatic pain creeps into your life is due to your lifestyle and habits, and that is what we like to call the process. The process can be described as a prolonged onset of symptoms based on your everyday activities...

However, from a technical stand point the process really describes the development of the muscle imbalance in your hip. The Piriformis muscle is responsible for external rotation (moving your leg so your feet point outward). So over time that muscle gets tight from the positions you put yourself in and weakens from lack of use.

Let me give you some examples of what I mean:

1. If you sit on the edge of your chair with you legs separated and your feet pointing outward you are keeping your Piriformis muscle in a shortened position and that's how it gets tight and with extended sitting in that position, it gets weak form lack of use. Hence the imbalance.

2. Another example is runners and bikers who actually work very hard tend to get sciatica because they fail to keep a strength vs. stretch balance in their workouts. Hence the imbalance creates a greater pull toward external rotation and the result is a tight Piriformis and an irritated sciatic nerve creating pain.

These are just two examples of how muscle imbalances can affect the Piriformis muscle and cause sciatic pain. You may not be a runner or cyclist but I'll bet you have muscle imbalances that are causing your sciatic pain!


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Thomas Gordon
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Posted on Aug 30, 2009
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Posted on Aug 5, 2009