What a Nerve...Sciatica

Sciatica can be an extremely painful and debilitating condition but there are various ways to manage it...

What is it?

If you've experienced shooting pains through your buttocks as well as numbness or tingling, typically in the calves or feet, it's likely that you're suffering from sciatica. It is caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back, branching down through the buttocks, and extending down both legs to your feet.

The condition can be intensely painful and limit your movement. It typically affects people above the age of 40, and those whose jobs require heavy lifting or other physical exertion that puts pressure on the back.

What causes it?
The most common cause is tension in the back muscles pulling on the sciatic nerve, leading to irritation. This is largely due to a weakness in the core muscles, placing too much pressure on the back muscles, which then go into spasm. The condition can occur during pregnancy or after physical exertion such as digging or lifting heavy objects.

Tackling the condition
Acute sciatica will usually clear up naturally within six weeks. Pain management is crucial, however, as it can be intense and debilitating.
In mild cases, pain relief products can be used as well as alternating hot and cold compresses. In severe cases, a muscle relaxing such as diazepam may also be prescribed.

Working it out
Once the pain is under control, physical therapy and exercise is vital to ease the pain and prevent future symptoms.

An important measure for treating and preventing sciatica is to maintain good posture when sitting and lying down. When standing, your weight should be evenly distributed over both feet and the core engaged to support your back. When sitting, avoid slumping. Sit upright, ideally on a chair that supports your back

Pain relieving stretches
Hip releaser - Sit on the floor and stretch your good leg in front of you. Then take the ankle of the affected leg and pull it close to your chest. Hold for five seconds. Repeat five times.

Hamstring stretch - Sit with your legs in front of you. Stretch your arms out and lift your body from the waist, leaning towards your feet. Hold, without bouncing, for 10 seconds. Repeat five times.

Buttock stretch - Lie down, support your thigh behind the knees and gently pull towards your chest. Hold for 10 seconds, building up to 30 seconds. Repeat five times.