Got 6 minutes? Let's get you feeling better!
Who is this article for
- Everyone who struggles with sciatic nerve pain and low back pain of any type.
- Anyone with a loved one suffering from sciatica pain or low back pain, and wants to help them feel better.
- Medical field workers and coaches (medical students, nurses, nutritionists, pharmacists etc) who would like to get some easy hacks and tips to be able to aid an athlete or a patient in pain without surgery.
Approximately 85% of the entire population will experience back pain at some stage of their lives. 30s - 50s are the most common ages to have low back pain with the average age being 45 years, but I have treated children with chronic pain as well so it depends on your body's anatomy and the causes for back pain.
Moreover, back pain leads to medical costs that exceed $38 billion per year.
Your life may be full with activities and habits that increase the likelihood of developing low back pain or make it worse if you already have it.
Causes of low back pain range from simple non-concerning things to serious life threatening conditions...but how to know? Should you seek medical help? Or be assured it will go away by its own? And most importantly, what can you do by yourself before you seek medical help?
It’s also likely that your back pain has hit you in more than just one way…
- Electric shocks down your leg (Sciatica).
- Radiating currents into your hip, buttocks or groin;
- Crippling muscle spasms;
- Sharp stabbing pain on the spine;
- Deep ache or burning sensation in your lower leg, calf, or ankle;
- Tingling, pins and needles into the legs or feet;
- Worsening pain when sitting;
- Difficulty moving legs or feet
I don’t know about you, but I’ve experienced all of those back pain symptoms myself at one point or another! And what’s worse is that many times it’s gotten in the way of everything from a good night’s sleep, to making it through my work day as a Physical Therapist, to even going for a walk, to exercise.
I also know that you have most likely given up on pain-free days and have gotten used to the low back pain, as if it's normal. I'm here to tell you that some discomfort is normal depending on activities or daily habits but chronic pain that prevents you from doing your daily activities is not.
The dreaded sciatic nerve pain (aka Sciatica) can be so overwhelmingly debilitating that you avoid any excruciating movements like walking or getting out of your car, or a chair.
Sciatica has many common causes that create a compression on the sciatic nerve:
- Bulging disc
- Bone spur
- Tight piriformis muscle
- Lumbar Stenosis
- Irritation of lower spine
- Degenerative disk disease
- Narrowing of the small holes that your nerves travel through (aka stenosis).
Pain-Relief for Sciatica and Low Back
MOST IMPORTANTLY: KEEP MOVING!
Yes, you're in pain but still muscles, weak core and sedentary routine is not good for your sciatic nerve.
The number one tactic to ease your sciatica and low back pain is to keep moving. Movement often provides the best long-term relief for low back pain. That means saying NO to bedrest, and to gently participate in your usual day-to-day activities as well as you can, with a few simple modifications:
- Bend your knees to pick up objects from the floor;
- Carry less weight in your bags;
- Ask for help with lifting or carrying heavy or awkward objects;
- Incorporate some light stretching (see below!) into your daily routine.
- When was the last time you changed your running shoes? Update every 12 months if you use them 2-3 times per week.
- If you're a side sleeper, try sleeping on your back with support under your knees to ensure flat back.
ADD STRETCHES TO YOUR DAILY ROUTINE
If you’re feeling symptoms of sciatica, the first goal is to “centralize” the symptoms to make them travel less far down your leg. Perform them 3-4 times per day, moving gently without forcing into a position that worsens your symptoms. As with any new exercise, start off slowly with a very gentle stretch. STOP if you have any increase in lower back pain or sciatic pain down your leg. If unsure whether you should perform these stretches, consult your doctor, physical therapist or other rehab professional.
Eliminate Sciatica With These Exercises
Standing Repeated Lumbar Extensions
Perform 2 sets of 15 gentle repetitions as far as you can go without sharp pain or an increase in your sciatica.
Repeat: 2 Sets / 15 Reps
REPEATED PRONE PRESS-UPS
Perform 2 sets of 15 gentle repetitions as far as you can go without sharp pain or an increase in your sciatica. If pressing up on your hands is too aggressive for your pain, try pressing up on your forearms like a sphinx.
Repeat: 2 Sets / 15 Reps
If you’re experiencing BOTH sciatica and low back pain, you may want to also supplement with these gentle stretches. Those of you without sciatica, these will still work very well!
Do You Travel Often And Want To Relieve Sciatica On-The-Go?
Check out this collapsable, portable foam roller designed to relieve chronic pain, pinch nerve, stiff muscles or sciatica anywhere, anytime. My patients rave about this roller because they can pack it with them into their work bag, gym bag or luggage. I have a few students who also love using Morph as it fits in their backpack. Try it free with free shipping and if you don't love it, return it in 30 days.
Eliminate Low Back Pain With These Exercises
Double-Knee To Chest Stretch
Draw knees to chest, gently hold 10 seconds. Relax and repeat x10 reps.
Repeat: 10 Reps / 10 Sec Each
Figure-4 Piriformis Stretch
Hold 2-3 repetitions of 30 seconds. If you're having difficulty holding with your hands as shown, then you can use a towel or a bed sheet to wrap behind your leg.
An alternative to this position is a pigeon yoga position to open up your hips.
Repeat: Hold 2-3 Repetitions / 30 sec
Arch your back upward and drop your head as you feel your entire spine bend in one direction. Hold briefly, then dip your back and lift your head as you again feel your entire spine and back muscles contract for maximum mobility.
Repeat: 2 Sets / 15 Reps
Looking around the internet, you’ll find that there’s no shortage of available solutions to low back pain. Isn’t that great?! That means that there are millions of people out there... just... like...you... who have come through on the other side, relieved of their back pain and sciatica.
Remember this: there is no one-size-fits-all exercise for people who have back pain or sciatic nerve pain and if you have tried these and are still in pain, contact me for a FREE CONSULTATION.
Gently try these exercises and stretches, and if something causes sharp pain or reproduces your symptoms, then ease off and do what you can, or move along to another exercise.
HOME REMEDIES AND LIFESTYLE CHANGES
There are additional strategies to put to work for you to feel better:
- Stop the slouch and step away from the screen. Give your back a few minutes to move about every 20-30 minutes;
- Have HR do an ergonomics check for your office computer setup;
- Walk 15-30 minutes daily, or if you’re not ready for that, go for a swim and let your body move “weightless” and free from impact.
- Try below Yoga Poses that sooth your sciatic nerve pain.
- Take this foldable, massage foam roller especially made for sciatica, pinched nerve or severe back pain, with you anywhere you go to relieve pain on-the-go.
In the rare case that your symptoms just won’t go away, even after you’ve been diligently stretching, exercising, and modifying your day-to-day activities, don’t worry… there’s still hope.
There are many capable rehab specialists available in your town, or maybe one you’ve used successfully in the past. For example, Physical Therapists (PTs) like myself are sciatica specialists. A PT will help you find a relief with a mix of hands-on treatments to reduce muscle spasm, improve muscle and joint flexibility, stabilize your spine, and by working one-on-one with you to help create a tailored in-home exercise program just for you that realigns your body and changes how you habitually move it to prevent a future flair-up.
Depending on your insurance and where you live you may be able to see a PT without a visit to your doctor. As a “Direct Access” rehab practitioner, your PT has been trained to identify any potential “red flags” and will promptly contact your doctor if they note anything potentially damaging.
Other rehab specialists can help too, each with their own specialized method for alleviating your pain (licensed massage therapists, certified acupuncturists, to name a few). The long-term goal is to avoid surgery and avoid the risk of long-term use of medications like anti-inflammatories (e.g. Ibuprofen) and opioids (e.g. hydrocodone).
If you have any questions or would like to talk about your specific problem, don't hesitate to contact me directly.
~ Greg Spooner, DPT
DISCLAIMER:This material is presented for informational and educational purposes only. This information does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider before beginning any exercise program. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your healthcare provider. RowPhysio MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, THAT THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THESE MATERIALS WILL MEET YOUR NEEDS.