The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the human body. It is also quite thick and almost finger wide. It starts from the lower back and innervates the lower legs, including the feet. It has some of the longest neurons in the body, with a length over a meter long.
The painful condition of the sciatic nerve is called sciatica. It may occur due to numerous reasons like injury, local inflammation and irritation.
Sciatica is a pain that originates from the lower back and radiates through the leg. It has components of nerve irritation, inflammation, compression, and pinching. As one can guess, some of these issues are better treated by medications and decompression of the nerve.
Most people would describe sciatic pain as stabbing or burning. It may be a constant pain but not essentially in all cases. Generally, pain in the leg exceeds pain in the lower back.
Certain people are at greater risk of developing sciatica like overweight individuals, physically demanding jobs, or individuals living with chronic disorders.
Gentle stretches along with regular use of non-steroidal inflammatory drugs are the main treatments for the conditions. Stretching has huge importance in managing sciatica.
Below are some of the excellent stretches for managing sciatica:
1. Reclining pigeon pose: it is a yoga pose that is perfect for beginners. One can lie on the back and then raise the right leg at 90 degrees. Fix the right leg at a place by clasping hands behind the thigh. Once the right leg is locked, lift the left leg and then place the right ankle on the left knee. Hold this position for some time and then repeat it with the other leg. If you have issues following the instruction, you can watch the video on YouTube here.
2. Knee to opposing shoulder: It is quite a simple exercise and yet good for relaxing gluteal and piriformis muscles. Lie down on your back with legs extended. Now bend your right leg and clasp it around the knee. Next, bring the right knee close to the left shoulder by gently applying pressure with hands. Just bring your right knee as close to your left shoulder as possible, but do not overdo it. You should feel muscles stretching, but not the pain. Repeat it three times, then follow up with the left leg towards the right shoulder.
3. Seated spinal twist: it is frequently recommended exercise, especially when the root of the sciatic nerve is compressed. Sit on the ground with legs extended. Both your feet should be parallel to each other with some space between them. Now, bend your right knee. After this, place your right foot outside of the left knee. Now gently place your left elbow outside of the right knee with your upper body turning right. Hold on in this position for 30 seconds and then repeat. If you have difficulties following the instruction, you can check the video instruction here.
When doing these exercises, use a high level of caution, as any activity done wrongly can make things even worse.
Additionally, one can do other so-called low impact exercises like swimming or rowing. These exercises may help strengthen core muscles without putting undue pressure on the spine. However, high impact exercises like weight training should be avoided.
Finally, one should consider a low back brace. It is a simple piece of equipment that is not very costly, yet it can provide a lot of comfort and support to the lower spine. A low back brace works by reducing the pressure on the discs of the lower spine. Regularly using a low back brace may even help improve the posture.