If you’re one of the 40 per cent of people that suffer from this condition, you definitely know what it means. If not, keep doing what you’re doing, because it’s a royal pain in the butt (and sometimes back!) my friends.
If you do suffer from this frequent and often debilitating pain, you’ve come to the right place. Under the correct instruction and medical care, yoga can work wonders for it.
What Is It?
The sciatic nerve goes from your lower back, through your hips and bum, and down each leg. In fact, it’s the longest nerve in your body. Sciatica is the term used in reference specifically to the pain that’s felt along the length of this sciatic nerve.
People that suffer from sciatica generally experience a constant pain down the side of the bum, hip, or leg. Some complain of lower back pain, pain down the back of the thigh, or where the bum meets hamstring. Rather than a chronic ache, sciatica is usually described as sharp and shooting, or numbness and needles.
Why Does it Hurt so Often?
A number of conditions can cause sciatica, but it commonly comes from nerve compression in the low back. According to Dr. Stephen H. Hochschuler, MD, how you experience sciatica, and where the pain pricks, depends on which spinal nerve is compressed and by how much.
The nerve roots that exit the spine to create the sciatic nerve are very sensitive and can easily be irritated by a herniated disc. Dr. Hochschuler says when this happens, pain radiates to the rear and back of the thigh and calf. This can occasionally go all the way down to the foot causing numbness, tingling and/or a burning or prickling sensation. Check out more on what the doc has to say here.
Because of the multiple causes, it’s important to receive a proper diagnosis so you can find the correct treatment option.
Please be aware: doing the wrong type of exercise can make it worse. This means a "one size fits all" approach to healing unfortunately won’t do the trick.
What You Can do About It, Thanks to Yoga…
With that said, yoga can help relieve the symptoms and prevent it. And in my book, prevention is the best medicine.
Amongst the many pain management options available for sciatica, yoga is considered by many professionals to be the best way to treat it, and as mentioned previously, prevent it. Be sure to check with your doc or physio before you try the exercises suggested below.
Move mindfully, with presence, and listen to your body’s messages. They are subtle, so move slowly. If you feel any pain or resistance, stop.
1. Bridge Pose
Bridge is a fantastic pose that will strengthen the low back. It also lengthens the hip flexors and strengthens the inner thighs.
Make sure to focus on using your inner thighs to activate this movement. To do this, place a block between your thighs. Press into the big toe knuckle and squeeze the block with your inner thighs. As you progress in your progress and pain management, feel free to remove the block and simply press your knees together.
Try not to arch your lower back, but create one long line of energy. Hold for three to five breaths, and repeat three times.
2. Eagle Pose
Eagle is an all-over joint opener and can be therapeutic for sciatica. Try to broaden your upper back, bring your elbows in line with your shoulders, sit down deeper into your legs, and shine the collarbones forward to sit up straight.
If you are new to this posture, it can be difficult to bind the crossed leg around the ankle of the standing leg, so instead, simply cross the leg and press the knife-edge or pinky toe of the crossed leg into the side of the standing calf.
3. Pyramid Pose
Many sciatica sufferers (again not all, depending on your specific sciatica cause) benefit greatly from a committed hamstring release. Overly tight hamstrings stress the low back and can aggravate sciatica.
With that said, move into Pyramid (and all hamstring stretches!) carefully and mindfully. You might not be one of the people that find it therapeutic!
From Mountain Pose, take about a two foot step back with your pain free leg. Point the back toes toward the front corner of your mat (same side). This will help square the hips. Hinge at the hips with a flat back until your shoulders are in line with your hips. Keep the back flat and extend the arms down toward the earth, or rest them on two blocks either side of your extended foot.
Hold for five to seven long breaths and repeat on the other side.
What are your favorite yoga poses for sciatica pain relief? Share them with us and the rest of the community below!