Do you feel the sensation of tingling and numbness in your lower back? Would you describe the radiating back pain as someone is pricking you with needles and pins? Does the incapacitating pain worsen when you cough, sneeze or sit down? If you are experiencing all these symptoms, then it is most likely that you are suffering from sciatica. The good news is that there are various exercises that will help you to alleviate sciatic nerve pain.
Sciatica is a symptom which is mainly signified by the pain in the sciatic nerve. Due to the vital role of the spinal cord, it is extremely essential to avoid bad exercises that will put more pressure on the spine resulting in worsening of the condition.
What Is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a syndrome which is commonly experienced as pain radiating from your lower back till the back of your thighs. The pain is usually spread along the pathway of the sciatic nerve. This is the longest and largest nerve present in your body and is as thick as your finger.
The sciatic nerve extends from the lower back, till your buttock and down to your legs. The sciatic nerve divides into two branches when it reaches the knee and ends in your feet. To make things more clear, sciatica is not a disorder but rather it is a symptom that signifies a problem associate with the sciatic nerve. There are two common types of sciatica listed as follows:
- Acute Sciatica – This is known as short-term sciatica, lasting for about 6 to 8 weeks, which does not require any professional medical attention. You can easily alleviate the unfavorable symptoms by opting for over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers.
- Chronic Sciatica – This is the long-term sciatica which requires professional treatment ranging from physical therapies, medications, exercises and other techniques.
What are the symptoms of sciatica?
The primary indicator of sciatica is pain radiating from the sciatica nerve. The symptoms may range from mild to severe and sharp pain around the spine region. The most common symptoms of sciatica are mentioned below:
- Numbness in both the legs.
- Tingling feeling in the feet and legs.
- Sharp burning sensation radiating from the lower back and upper buttock extending down till the legs.
- In severe cases, walking becomes a painful experience.
- Sensation of pain increases while bending or walking.
What causes sciatica?
The most common cause of sciatica is herniated intervertebral disc. The term herniate means to stick or bulge out. The role of the spongy intervertebral discs is to protect the spine and act as a shock absorber. Sometimes, due to injury or aging, the discs are ruptured which puts pressure on the exposed sciatic nerves resulting in the blockage of smooth blood flow to the region below your waist.
This is the main cause of inflammation and numbness experienced in this condition. Other causes include:
- Cauda equina syndrome – This is an extremely rare and serious form of disorder which damages the nerves present on the lower side of the spine. Due to the compression on the spinal nerve roots you may experience numbness in the lower back. In some severe cases, it may damage the nervous system which results in paralysis. It is commonly categorized as a surgical emergency and you will need to consult a doctor immediately.
- Spondylolisthesis – In this disease, one of the bones in your vertebra slides above the bone below it. This commonly occurs in the lumbosacral area which is the lower spine region. This automatically compresses the nerve roots which results in numbness of legs and back pain.
- Lumbar spinal stenosis – This is a slow and gradual process in which the spinal canal starts becoming narrow. The narrowing squeezes the spinal nerves which triggers the symptoms of the sciatica. The treatment for lumbar spinal stenosis depends on the severity of the disorder. In initial stages painkillers, exercises and various non-surgical procedures are ample to treat the condition. However, in extreme cases you might need to undergo a surgery for treatment.
- Tumour – Tumour in the spine may compress the root nerve which gives way to the sensation of numbness and tickling in the region below the waist.
- Spinal injury – Any form of injury within the spine may result in sciatica.
8 Bad Exercises To Avoid For Sciatica Nerve Pain
Doctors recommend exercises as the best ailment for treating and fighting the unfavorable symptoms of sciatica. Researches indicate that exercises prove to be of immense benefit which should be given more priority than bed rest. The main aim of exercise is to provide conditioning in a manner that it prevents recurrence of pain in the near future.
If you continue the normal routine of rest for a prolonged period of time, then your back bones may become weak and will be less likely to provide support. This is a process of de-conditioning which is experienced when you go without exercising or moving your spinal structure for a long time.
As important as exercise is for the health of your spinal discs, you need to understand that not all exercise regime will compliment your disorder. Thus, you need to be extra careful to avoid exercises that may prove to be detrimental for your condition. Some of the exercises that are a big “NO” for you to indulge in if you are suffering from sciatica are listed as follows:
- Heavy stretching of the hamstrings – The hamstrings muscles are extremely sensitive in this condition. While stretching the hamstrings muscles, you are also stretching the sciatic nerves indirectly. As such, this will only worsen the injury caused by the compression already exerted on them.
- Bent over rows – One of the causes of herniated discs is linked with the posture maintained in the bent over rows exercise. This exercise has drastic impact on the health of your spine and may upset its structure. The main reason for spine injury occurs due to the immense pressure exerted on the spine during the bent over rows stance. The pressure damages the intervertebral discs which expose the root nerves leading towards inflammation and infection.
- Straight legged sit-ups – If you notice, the main pattern that is observed in exercises causing sciatica usually seem to exert excessive pressure on the already sensitive spine region. Straight legged sit ups is another exercise which comes under the category of vigorous exercising that upsets the structure of spinal cord. This aggregates the inflammation and numbness experienced in the region below the waist and in extreme cases, permanent nerve damage may also occur.
- Abdominal stretches – This is another exercise linked with worsening the condition of sciatica. The stance of stretches applies pressure on the back bone area which gives way to compression of the sciatica nerve pain. The common complain experienced by abdominal stretches practitioners who are suffering from sciatica is nerve irritation. Thus, it is advisable that you avoid this exercise completely during the course of sciatica treatment.
- Full body squats – Another exercise that you need to discontinue if you have sciatica disorder is full body squats while standing accompanied by barbells on shoulders. This is an extremely harmful exercise which is associated with various lower spine damages. The weight of the barbell exerts pressure on the lower back which causes compression of the spine nerves and damages the intervertebral discs. You might suffer from irritated nerves and even herniated disc if you continue doing this form of exercise with sciatica. The pain distributes from the lower back and extends to the buttocks and legs.
- Heavy dead-lifts – Weightlifters are often addicted to heavy dead-lifts but the addiction and dedication that they assign to their physical well-being often goes astray when they cause damage to their spinal cord. Heavy dead-lifts is another form of exercise that may result in spine injury if it is not discontinued after suffering from the painful syndromes of sciatica. Heavy dead-lifts is one of the major contributors to lower back pain and is also associated to cause the complications as experienced in sciatica.
- Weightlifting exercises – People suffering from sciatica usually add weightlifting exercises as part of their daily exercise to ensure smooth movement of the spinal cord. However, it should be thoroughly noted that these form of exercises should be done by offering support to the lower back. Otherwise, it will create problems for your condition.
- Leg exercises – According to a research, people suffering from back pain should avoid exercises such as leg lifts and leg curls while facing downwards. Any exercise with heavy weight lifting will automatically put pressure on the lower back region which instigates the symptoms and complications of sciatica. Also make sure that you avoid exercises that put your back in the stance of acting as a fulcrum such as keeping legs straight during exercises. This puts excessive pressure on the spinal cord and may worsen the condition.
The main aim of sciatica-friendly exercise is to strengthen the back muscles. This makes it fundamental to consult a professional fitness trainer who can draft a healthy exercise regime for your sciatica nerve pain. If you want to work out on your own, then you will need to remember the 8 bad exercises to avoid for sciatic nerve pain.
You should focus your energy on exercising the region surrounding the sciatica nerve rather than pulling direct pressure on it. An excellent example of such an exercise is the pelvic tilt which is perfect for the sufferers of sciatica nerve pain.