Sciatica: Symptoms and preventive methods

Sciatica is a condition that causes pain, numbness, and weakness in the leg. It is caused by irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve, which is the longest nerve in the body. The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back down through the buttocks and leg.

Symptoms of sciatica

The most common symptom of sciatica is pain in the lower back or buttocks that radiates down the leg. This pain can be sharp or dull, and it may be constant or intermittent. Other symptoms of sciatica include:

  • Numbness or tingling in the leg
  • Weakness in the leg
  • Difficulty moving the leg
  • Burning sensation in the leg

Causes of sciatica

Sciatica is most often caused by a herniated disc, which is a condition in which the soft inner material of a spinal disc bulges or ruptures and presses on the sciatic nerve. Other causes of sciatica include:

  • Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal)
  • Spondylolisthesis (slipping of one vertebra over another)
  • Degenerative disc disease (wearing down of the discs in the spine)
  • Osteoarthritis (arthritis of the joints in the spine)
  • Piriformis syndrome (muscle spasm in the buttocks that compresses the sciatic nerve)
  • Pregnancy (weight gain and changes in posture can put pressure on the sciatic nerve)

Preventive methods for sciatica

There are a number of things you can do to help prevent sciatica, including:

  • Maintaining good posture
  • Keeping your back muscles strong
  • Avoiding heavy lifting
  • Losing weight if you are overweight or obese
  • Wearing comfortable shoes
  • Taking breaks when sitting or standing for long periods of time
  • Stretching your back and leg muscles regularly

Treatment for sciatica

Most cases of sciatica improve with rest and non-surgical treatments, such as:

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractic care
  • Injections of corticosteroids

Sciatica: Exercises and stretches

In addition to the preventive methods listed above, there are a number of exercises and stretches you can do to help relieve pain and improve mobility if you have sciatica.

Here are a few examples:

Knee to chest stretch

Lie on your back with your knees bent. Bring one knee to your chest and hold it with both hands. Gently pull your knee towards your chest until you feel a stretch in your lower back. Hold for 15-30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.

Hamstring stretch

Sit on the ground with your legs extended in front of you. Bend forward from the hips, reaching towards your toes. Keep your back straight and your legs relaxed. Hold for 15-30 seconds and then repeat.

Lower back twist

Lie on your back with your arms outstretched to the sides. Bend both knees and bring them to one side of your body, keeping your shoulders flat on the ground. Hold for 15-30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.

Bird dog

Start on your hands and knees with your back flat. Extend your right arm and left leg out straight. Hold for 5 seconds and then return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.

Bridge

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Raise your hips off the ground until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Hold for 5 seconds and then slowly lower back down.

It is important to warm up before doing any exercises or stretches. You can do this by walking or marching in place for a few minutes. Be sure to listen to your body and stop any exercise or stretch that causes pain.

If you have any questions or concerns about doing exercises or stretches for sciatica, be sure to talk to your doctor or physical therapist.