Sciatica is a condition that can grossly affect a person’s quality of life (QOL). Depending on what is causing the problem, almost 90% of cases will improve without the need for surgery. 50% of patients will recover within six weeks. Exercises play an important role in the efforts of alleviating pain without resorting to surgery.
Sciatica Exercises can be done at home or in a health institution. In both situations the guidelines of a physical therapist are a must so that you do them right and safely. Surgical intervention is the last resort when every other measure has failed. But do these exercises work? What types of sciatica exercises are employed?
Types of sciatica exercises
A physical therapist will most likely design an exercise program that fits an individual’s circumstances. Common sciatica exercises can include:
- Knee to chest stretch
- Sciatica mobilization stretch
- Back extension
- Standing hamstring stretch
- Lying deep gluteal stretch
- Trigger point massage. Strictly speaking this is not a form of exercise but it involves pressure that helps to release piriformis muscle impinged sciatic nerve
- Yoga. This may combine exercises and meditation
A physical therapist may also prescribe other types of exercises for general back health.
What research has established about sciatica exercises
One of the risk factors for sciatica is a sedentary lifestyle. This means back and other muscles in the body become weak and lax. Exercises are known to strengthen muscles and so when done correctly; they can strengthen the spine muscles which in turn reduce the risks of factors that promote chances of sciatica.
A combination of muscle strengthening exercises and high intensity exercise programs can help you to achieve this.
Yoga involves ancient forms of exercises that strengthens specific muscles and improve balance and flexibility. According to the Yoga Journal, specific yoga exercises and poses can help you to loosen up tight muscles and reduce back pain (including sciatica pain).
This works well if the proper exercise sequence is followed. Working with a yoga instructor in the initial stages is important until the exercises, poses and sequence has been mastered. The journal further specifies that the lotus pose and reclining big toe pose are the best for sciatica management.
The International Journal of Yoga of January 2015 published a study that found that Iyengar yoga can be an effective practice that can help to reduce back pain. Study subjects who did these yoga exercises for sixteen weeks had a 64% improvement rate.
Pilates and sciatica
A study published in the Maturitas – The European Menopause Journal of December 2015 found that women aged over 65 who went through a six week program improved their chronic back pain among other balance related benefits. While this study may not have been specifically targeted at sciatica patients, it suggests that sciatica as a cause of back pain may also benefit from Pilates.
Tentative study results repeatedly indicate that exercises are beneficial for sciatica pain. However, there is a general consensus that there is need for more research involving many sciatica patients so that more conclusive results can be achieved. While exercises are beneficial not only for the back and sciatica but the whole body and overall health, it is important to do them correctly to avoid more health problems including an exacerbation of sciatica pain.