“Ah! My sciatica!” I’ve been hearing that from my grandmother since I was a child. She’s seventy-six now, so that’s about a third of her life that she’s been saying that. Probably longer because my brother remembers her talking about it too.
Let’s start with what the sciatic nerve actually is. As this will help us better understand the sciatic nerve pain my grandmother complains about. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the human body, starting at the spine base and running right down through your thigh and calf muscles to your foot.
The average person has about a 40% chance of experiencing some sciatica pain throughout their lives. It might not be a chronic pain, but you could have trouble with it. That’s kind of a startling statistic until you learn that not all sciatica trouble causes pain. Sometimes it’s as simple as tingling in your legs or weakness in your knees.
Symptoms Of Sciatica Trouble
- Pain anywhere along the sciatic nerve in the lower back, buttock, back of the thigh, and/or calf.
- Fatigue, numbness, or loss of feeling in your legs and/or feet.
- An electric, tingling, burning, pinching, or pins-and-needles feeling
- Weakness that can cause your knees to buckle when you stand up from sitting.
- Foot drop: a condition in which you are not able to flex your ankles enough to walk on your heels.
Reduced reflexes in your Achilles tendon and knee
What Causes Sciatica Pain?
Sciatica pain can be caused by herniation in your lumbar spine – this is the part of your spine that curves inward, near you lower-middle back. This is serious and you should consult a doctor about this immediately. But nearly 70 percent of sciatica cases are caused by piriformis. This muscle is one of a few small deep hip rotators that you use to turn your thigh out.
Reducing Pain in Your Sciatica
In order to reduce pain in your sciatica, particularly if your pain is caused by the piriformis, there are a few back stretches you can perform that originate in yoga to help stretch your lower back and to help prevent or stop sciatica pain.
The Standing Back Twist
This is a great pose for people who aren’t bendy enough to start with some of these other poses. Put your foot up on a chair, and place the outside of your opposite hand on your raised knee (left hand to the right knee or right hand to left knee). Place your other hand on your hip. Turning your upper body while keeping your hips facing forward hold the position for thirty seconds, then switch. Don’t push past where your comfortable.
The Knee Raise
Lying on your back draw one knee to your chest, keeping the other leg straight. Push down with your knee and pull up with your hands. Keep your shoulders on the floor.
The Two Knee Twist
Lie on your back. Splay your arms to form a capital “T.” Keeping your shoulders on the floor, turn your knees out to one side. Keep your shoulders on the floor. Hold the position for a minute, then alternate sides.
The Single Knee Twist
Lie on your back. Keeping one leg straight, bend one knee to a 90° angle, place the opposite hand on that knee. Turn to face the arm still on the floor. Keep both shoulders against the floor.
The Twisted Lunge
This is a trickier pose but really opens your hips. Step one leg forward, bend at the knee. The other leg should stay out behind you. Try to keep your feet one leg’s length apart. Turning your back, place your opposite elbow on the outside your bent knee. Bring your palms together. Hold for thirty seconds.
The Seated Twist
Sit with your legs straight in front of you. Bend on the leg at the knee and place it on the outside of the other knee. You can keep the leg straight or curl it up, whichever is comfier. Put one hand flat on the floor behind you, place your opposite elbow on the outside of your bent knee. Turn to face behind you, keeping your legs pointing forward.
The Cat Pose
Super easy. Get on your hands and knees. Bend your back down and lift your chest by pulling your shoulders back. Breathe and hold for ten seconds. Return to a flat back, then tuck your chin into your chest and raise your back. Hold for ten seconds and release. Do this for a minute or two.
The easiest pose on this list. Get down on your hands and knees, then rock your seat back onto your heels, leaving your hands on the floor in front of you. Hold for as long as you like. Don’t fall asleep like this, your legs won’t forgive you.
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