Sciatica is a term used to describe lumbar radiculopathy, which is an inflammation or compression of a nerve at the lower back. Sciatica refers to a problem at the spine causing symptoms that start in the low back or glutes and radiates down into the leg. These symptoms could include shooting pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness. Sciatica can be caused by conditions such as muscle tightness, spinal stenosis, or disc herniations. According to Harvard Health, about 40% of the population will have it in their lifetime, and it becomes more common as you age. If you have sciatica, exercising can be really challenging to do without aggravating your back. The good news is there are some things you can do to reduce sciatica symptoms while working out.
If you have sciatica, there are a few things you need to think about and movements you should stay away from while working out. Bending, twisting, or any high impact exercise such as box jumps should be avoided if you are struggling with sciatica. Sit ups/crunches, burpees, squats, and dead lifts are just a few of the exercises that tend to aggravate the symptoms, due to the strain they put on your back. Before performing these exercises, you should see a professional who understands the right mechanics for those movements. If you do not have the right amount of range of motion in any of your joints, the joints adjacent to it tends to make it up by doing double the work, which can lead to further injury. It is also important that you are able to add the right intra-abdominal pressure for the task at hand. Intra-abdominal pressure is the pressure in the abdominal cavity that allows for protection of the spine. The best way to create this intra-abdominal pressure is by diaphragmatic breathing. This is what you see in power lifters right before they lift heavy weight. This diaphragmatic breath is able to lower the diaphragm creating stiffness and more stability, preventing more risk for injury. That being said, squatting 50% of your max weight for 1 rep requires much less intra-abdominal pressure than doing 100% of your max for 1 rep. Being able to combine great form and the right amount of intra-abdominal pressure will help prevent you from experiencing injuries and will give you the tools to move better.
Instead of jumping right into weight lifting and running, start nice and slow. Instead of doing free weights such as barbells and dumbbells, try using the machines that can help give you a more controlled and stable lift. Also, try using an elliptical or stationary bike instead of running outside or an indoor track. Swimming is a great exercise where you can off-load your spine while keeping your muscles and joints moving. If you are finding that these tips and alternatives are not doing the trick, schedule a visit with us here at Cumberland Chiropractic and Sports Medicine. We would love to help you!