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Sciatica

1 Learn

What can cause Sciatica?

The nervous systems can be divided into two parts: the central nervous system (CNS), which is the brain and spinal cord, and  the peripheral nervous system (PNS), which relays information from the periphery of the body to the CNS. For instance, if you put your hand on something hot, the sensation of heat will travel through your hand and up your arm (PNS) into your spinal cord and up to the brain (CNS). The brain can then decide whether the object is too hot to handle.

The PNS can be further subdivided into the somatic or voluntary and autonomic or involuntary nervous systems. Somatic involves conscious control of muscles such as lifting a glass of water to drink; whereas, the autonomic (also referred to as visceral) involves control of organs and glands below the level of conscious awareness such as the flight or fight response.

There are three types of nerve cells otherwise known as neurons; they are:

  1. Interneurons
  2. Motor neurons
  3. Sensory neurons

Interneurons, found only in the CNS, relay information between the other two, motor and sensory. Sensory neurons are responsible for sending sensations from the PNS to the CNS. Receptors at the peripheral end of the sensory neuron within the skin, skeletal muscle, joints and internal organs receive stimulus; these sensations then travel up the nerve to the brain where they are interpreted.

The motor neurons carry impulses from the CNS to effectors in the skeletal muscles (somatic), cardiac muscle, smooth muscle and glands (visceral). For example, the CNS sends impulses to the muscles in the hamstrings to bend the leg (somatic) or sends a impulse to the sweat glands (visceral) to secrete sweat when you are hot.

A group of sensory neurons is known as a sensory nerve. A good example of this is the optic nerve which is responsible for sending sensations from the retina to the brain. A group of motor neurons is known as a motor nerve. The hypoglossial nerve, which is responsible for movement of the tongue is a good example of this. A mixed nerve is a nerve that contains both sensory and motor neurons. The Sciatic nerve of the leg, the longest nerve in the body, is an example of a mixed nerve.

If there is a compression on a nerve, otherwise known as a pinched nerve, the individual can experience, tingling, numbness, muscle weakness and/or pain. Causes of compression can be anything from a herniated disc to muscle tension. In Sciatica there can be compression on the nerve caused by a spine or disc problem centered around either the lumbar (L4-L5) or the sacral region (S1, S2 or S3). Another cause can be muscle tightness around the Sciatic nerve. In particular the Pirisformis muscle can become so tight that it irritates the nerve causing the same symptoms as a herniated disc.

Next step

2 Create

Vision Exercises

  • Sunning

    We should all know by now that the sun has a full spectrum of benefits for our bodies. In particular the sun provides Vitamin D to help with the absorption of calcium in the bone. So by sunning regularly you not only encourage the production of happy hormones to lift your mood, but you also activate the macula in your eyes (the part of the eye responsible for seeing fine detail), exercise your pupils and strengthen bones and joints.

    “This may well be true, but what if I live somewhere like England and it’s never sunny!?!” Well try our skying exercise. Even if the sun is not gracing us with its full rays because of cloud you are still receiving light rays and its benefits. Even if you don’t want to sky, just getting out the house and going for a walk is good enough. The only down side is you have to wear your bathing suit…only joking!

Body Exercises

  • Application of Hot or Cold

    Applying cold to an inflamed area can help reduce swelling, a contributing factor to Sciatica. Place cold on the inflamed area, which could be the lower back, hip or buttocks, for around 10-15 minutes several times a day. Ways of applying cold can be a cold wet towel, ice pack or even better, and our favorite, a cold bath.

    Since tension in the muscles surrounding the Sciatic nerve can be the cause or a contributing factor to Sciatica, apply heat to any tight muscles in the lower back, hip and buttocks with a hot wet towel, heat pad or hot bath. You can also combine both cold and heat by having a hot bath, while putting ice on the inflamed area. This will loosen muscles and reduce inflammation at the same time. Please note that some people might find more benefits from cold than from hot or vice versa, the best thing to do is try both and see what works best for you.

  • General Self Massage Techniques

    Self massage techniques such as shaking, tapping, effleurage and skin rolls on the tight muscles surrounding the Sciatic nerve can lessen the effects of compression, bringing relief to the nerve. Experiment with different pressure and speeds to see which brings the best results.

  • Tennis Balls on the Back 

  • Tennis Balls on the Legs

    Tennis balls on the glutes and lower back can help bring more blood and lessen tension around the Sciatic nerve. Be sure to stay away from the spine or any inflamed area and go very slowly to begin with.

  • Quadriceps Stretch 

  • Back Stretch

  • Piriformis Stretch 

  • Glute Stretch

    Stretching the muscles surrounding the Sciatic nerve will perform the same function as the massage, loosening the muscles and relieving pain. In particular you will want to stretch the back, hip flexors, pirifomis and glutes.

  • Hip Rotations

    Hip rotations and crossed leg rotations will help loosen the tight muscles surrounding the Sciatic nerve. This movement will also bring increased blood flow to the area, speeding recovery. Please remember to perform these movements one step at a time, avoiding any movements that create sharp pain.  Also, many find standing and rotating the leg difficult in this case start on the floor.

  • Crossed Leg Rotations

    Hip rotations and crossed leg rotations will help loosen the tight muscles surrounding the Sciatic nerve. This movement will also bring increased blood flow to the area, speeding recovery. Please remember to perform these movements one step at a time, avoiding any movements that create sharp pain.  Also, many find standing and rotating the leg difficult in this case start on the floor.

Mind Exercises

  • Body Awareness

    In today’s society the vast majority of people have lost connection with their bodies. A great example of this is taking pain killers to numb the pain and separate “us” from ‘’it.” Pain becomes an inconvenience and we find it difficult to function while it is there. It makes sense for us to want to stop the pain as quickly as possible so we can get on with our work and daily lives.

    The problem with separating the body and mind is that over time the gap gets increased so we no longer understand what our body is trying to tell us. For example, someone is sitting for a long period of time. After 30 minutes or an hour the back starts to ache which is a clear signal to move or stretch. Instead that person continues to sit for another hour or so until they are forced to stand up through either too much pain or another task.

    For self healing to be successful we need to rebuild our mind/body connection to understand what activities can cause pain and what we can do, i.e. exercises, to work with it instead of against it. A benefit of this renewed connection is that instead of a quick fix for pain we can make the effects longer lasting.

  • Body Journal

    By keeping a journal about working with your body you can help strengthen your body awareness. It can help show you what activities in your life are causing pain such as the way you get out of bed and/or sitting for long periods of time. Through journaling you can start to focus on what you need to improve the condition and keep the pain from occurring and reoccurring. Everyone is an individual so certain exercises may not work for you. Your body will also change over the course of your program. The journal is a good way of keeping track of what is working for you and what is not.

    A body journal can give you a place to deal with pain and frustrations that are being experienced. Journaling also keeps track of your successes. Even the smallest improvement is still an improvement and should be appreciated! Over time its easy to forget how far you have come.  and keeping a journal can be a nice reminder of your progress.

  • Relaxation

    The body directly responds to the mind. If you are anxious your body creates tension leading to strain. On the other hand you can consciously use the mind to relax the body through activities like meditation, visualization and general relaxation techniques.

Next step

3 Integrate

Home

  • Sunning – Open a window from within the house and sun.
  • Application of Hot and Cold – while watching TV, having a bath, before bed or early morning, while resting around the house.
  • Self massage  – watching TV, before bed or first thing in morning, anytime you sense tension in the hip or lower back, resting on the couch.
  • Stretching – Listening to music, talking on the phone, in between chores, combine with afternoon or morning exercise program. anytime the muscles feel tight.
  • Hip and Crossed Leg Rotations – While watching TV, lying in bed, in the bathtub, pick a time when to perform i.e first thing in the morning, before bed or lunch.
  • Body Awareness –  Standing and sitting posture, what movement or activity causes certain pains i.e getting in and out of bed, bring your attention to specific body parts when performing routine tasks, i.e brushing teeth chopping vegetables.
  • Body Journal – keep near by and add an observation when it arises, before bed i.e write out the observations of the day.
  • Relaxation – Palming, meditation, napping, distance looking, listen to music or audio book, self massage, having a bath, going for a walk.

Work

  • Sunning – Try sunning just before and after work, go outside during breaks and sun, open a window from within the building and sun
  • Application of Hot and Cold –  During breaks, while performing simple tasks, before after work, whenever there is pain.
  • Self Massage- while performing simple tasks, during breaks, putting tennis balls between your glutes, lower back or hamstrings and chair, press into them.
  • Stretching – During breaks, while talking on the phone, before and after work.
  • Hip and Crossed Leg Rotations –  While sitting in a chair or over the chair, during a break, before or after work.
  • Body Awareness – Standing and sitting posture, bring your attention to specific body parts when performing routine tasks, i.e answering phones.
  • Body Journal – Keep journal near by and make observations.
  • Relaxation – Make sure you take your breaks! Palming, meditation, distance looking, listen to music or audio book, self massage, going for a walk.

Transit

  • Sunning -.While waiting for public transit to arrive, when going outside stop and sun briefly to help eyes adjust to the light. Slowly wean yourself from sunglasses
  • Application of Hot and Cold – As a passenger, before and after long journeys, take breaks on long journeys and apply.
  • Self Massage  – as a passenger, Put between your back and seat, between your glutes and seat or between your hamstrings and seat and press into them.
  • Stretching –  as a passenger, stop and stretch periodically when walking, stretch before and after journeys.
  • Hip and Crossed Leg Rotations – as a passenger, perform passive hip rotations, if walking longer distances stop regularly and rotate lower back (hula) or find an object and rotate leg over it.
  • Body Awareness – Standing, walking and sitting posture, how certain movements create certain sensations, looseness.
  • Body Journal – Observe how the body responds during forms of transit, ie, sitting in certain position, length of time, walking up or down hill etc
  • Relaxation – Palming, meditation, distance looking, listen to music or audio book, self massage.

Computer

  • Sunning – Try sunning just before and after computer use, go outside during breaks and sun, open a window from within the building and sun.
  • Application of Hot and Cold – while sitting, during computer breaks, anytime the joint feels stiff or inflamed.
  • Self Massage –  preforming simple tasks, during computer breaks, waiting for something to load, put tennis balls between your chair and lower back, glutes or hamstrings and press into them, on computer breaks. anytime tension is felt in the back or legs, before and after using computer.
  • Hip and Crossed Leg Rotations – sitting at computer, during a short break, over the chair.
  • Stretching – chair stretches, during breaks,
  • Body Awareness – Sitting posture ie are you arching the lower back in or out? Are you holding your shoulders up when typing, are you leaning towards the computer? is your back tired or in pain?
  • Body Journal – Keep the journal close by and make observations.
  • Relaxation – Palming, meditation, distance looking, listen to music or audio book, self massage.