If you suffer from sciatica pain it is because the sciatic nerve is compromised. The sciatic nerve starts in the lower back and goes down along the back of the leg. So when the nerve is affected, pain can occur either in the low back or the back of your thigh. Sciatic pain usually only happens on one side, but it can occasionally affect both legs.
The pain caused by sciatica can vary greatly. According to patients it can range from a mild dull ache to unbearable and excruciating pain.
Several things can cause pressure on the sciatic nerve. A herniated disc for example will press against the sciatic nerve. Or bone spurs on the vertebrae can also press on the nerve.
But sitting for long periods of time is often the biggest culprit for causing sciatic pain. Inactivity and sitting can be detrimental to our health in many ways. But the sciatic nerve is particularly sensitive to inactivity, as we actually sit on the nerve directly.
Our lower backs have increased pressure when we sit down, and this compresses the sciatic nerve. We also rarely sit in the correct position. Even if we have ergonomic chairs and are aware enough to sit with good posture, remaining in the same position for long periods of time can still be detrimental. Our bodies are designed to move.
For example when we sit in front of our computer screens, we often hold our heads in the same position for a long time, and this negatively affects our posture and back alignment.
As the sciatica nerve begins in the lower back you could be forgiven for thinking the neck cannot be linked to the sciatic nerve. But upper cervical misalignment can be the cause of pain in the sciatic nerve. Our whole spines are connected with soft tissue that can cause pain anywhere along the spine. So even when the neck is misaligned or any of the soft tissue is damaged, this can cause pain in the lower back.
The most common age group of people who suffer from sciatica is age 35 – 55. Being a smoker, being overweight or having a demanding manual job can also increase the likelihood of suffering sciatica pain. Also people with diabetes are more likely to be affected by sciatica.
So what is the solution?
Long term solutions include losing weight, giving up smoking and getting a physically less demanding job.
Shorter term solutions include increasing your overall health by being more active. And to take regular breaks from sitting, especially sitting at a computer.
I personally only ever suffer sciatica when I have not been walking or active for several days. And that only happens these days if I am too ill to go out. So thankfully, hardly ever.
As well as walking every day, I also do my exercise videos, even if only for ten minutes a day. And I can happily report that I never get sciatic pain in these conditions.
There are a few stretches that effectively treat sciatica. Don’t be tempted to do any of them without first having a substantial warm-up. And I would recommend being gently active for several days before attempting any kind of stretches if you have been inactive at all recently.
Once you have become more active over a few days, then a hamstring stretch is good for the sciatic nerve because it stretches the whole of the back of the leg and buttocks. I do this stretch every day, as it’s also great for the lower back, so if you have lower back pain or sciatica, this is a great stretch to do.
The full version is to stand upright, then bend over as far as you can. If you cannot bend over very far, then put one foot more forward than the other, put your weight on the leg further back, and bend the knee of this leg. Now rest both hands just above the knee of the bent rear leg, and bend your top half over as far as you can to stretch the hamstring of the leg the leg you have in front.
This also stretches the lower back and buttocks. And by making a small change, you can also stretch the calf muscle. Stay in the same position, but lift just the toes of the front leg off the floor, so you have your heel on the floor and your foot is upright. This stretches the low back, buttocks, hamstring and calf. This is a great all round stretch that I recommend every day after a good warm up of course.
Regardless of the initial cause of your sciatica, if you are even a little bit active, don’t sit too long at once and do this stretch every day, you will definitely notice a reduction in sciatic pain, and possibly eliminate it altogether.