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Living with Sciatica

There are many people who suffer from sciatica each year, but not everyone knows what it is or what causes it.

It is estimated that five to 10 percent of people with low back pain have sciatica and the reported lifetime prevalence of low back pain ranges from 49 to 70 percent.

Listed below are the topics that will be discussed in this article:

  • What is sciatica?
  • Stretches that may help to relieve your pain.

Causes of Sciatica

Before we get into the causes of sciatica, let’s first discuss what it is.

Sciatica is nerve pain caused by the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is large and starts in the lower back. It runs into the butt, then down the back of the thigh before branching off into smaller nerves that go down into the lower leg.

Sciatica is most commonly caused by irritation of the lumbar spine’s nerve root(s) but can occur if the nerve gets pinched or compressed anywhere along its path. The condition can cause pain, numbness and tingling, and/or leg weakness.

Although sciatica is a fairly common term, the causes can vary.

There are several diagnoses and impairments that can cause sciatica.

Disc Bulging or Herniating

Sciatica is most commonly caused by a disc in the lower back pressing on the sciatic nerve. This occurs when the discs between our vertebrae “bulge” or “herniate.”

A bulging disc means that the disc is pushed back to the left or right, but the gel-like center remains contained inside the disc. When the disc herniates, the gel-like center breaks through and is no longer contained inside the disc.

sciatica bulging disc, herniated disc

Sciatica can also be caused by normal aging of the spine, which can lead to diagnoses such as arthritis, spinal stenosis, or degenerative disc disease. When this occurs, it means that there is a narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back, limiting the amount of space available for the spinal cord and nerve — including the sciatic nerve.

Although sciatica is often caused by compression or irritation of the nerve at the root, it can occur anywhere along the nerve’s pathway.

sciatica, spinal stenosis

Another common cause of sciatica is referred to as piriformis syndrome, which is pain caused when the piriformis muscle, which is the deep muscle in your buttock, irritates the sciatic nerve.

sciatica, piriformis

Stretches to Help Relieve Sciatica

As discussed above, there are different causes of sciatic pain That said, there are no exercises or stretches that will help everyone with sciatica relieve their pain.

If you are currently suffering from sciatic nerve pain, below are a few stretches to help decrease your symptoms:

Stretch 1

For this stretch, lie on your back while holding your affected leg up with both hands. Keep your hip at a 90-degree angle.

As you straighten your leg, flex your ankle upwards so that your toes are pointing towards you. Straighten your leg as much as you can until you feel a stretch – you most likely will not be able to straighten it completely.

Hold this for 10 seconds and then slowly allow your leg and ankle to relax, returning to the start position.

Repeat five times, three to four times per day.

sciatica stretch
Stretch 2

Sitting upright, look down and bend your knee, allowing your ankle and foot to point downwards.

Slowly look upwards and straighten your knee, flexing your ankle upwards so that your toes are pointing towards the ceiling or towards you.

Hold for five to 10 seconds and then slowly return to the starting position.

Repeat five times, three to four times per day.

sciatica stretch
sciatica stretch
Ready to Move & Feel Better?

If you’re struggling with sciatica or low back pain, our Physical Therapists can help.

Treatment is covered by insurance, no referral is required to start, and with flexible appointments, you can find a time that works with your schedule.

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