Most of us will suffer from some sort of back pain at some point in our life. It is something that can really get you down and an all too common occurrence in today’s more sedentary desk-orientated world.
When it comes to back pain, Sciatica is one of the big ones, everyone knows someone that has or has had it. But if you are reading this article, it is probably you that is currently suffering!
This is going to be quite a dry article, I warn you in advance, however, I hope it will be very helpful in solving what is a deeply frustrating condition! Let me start by outlining where the Sciatic nerve is and exactly what Sciatica is and what causes it!
The Anatomy of It!
Sciatica is uncomfortable (I know I had Sciatic issues before becoming a Yoga Instructor). Sciatica itself is a pinching of the sciatic nerve. It tends to be characterised by tingling, pain and/or pins and needles down the back of one or both legs, made worse by sitting down, lower back and hip pain and in some cases shooting pain when trying to stand.
The Sciatic Nerve runs from the L4 vertebra right down to the foot. As is demonstrated in this picture:
Which is why Sciatica can initially manifest as pins and needles in your foot or leg as opposed to a general back pain.
Sciatica can be caused by many things, poor posture and slipped discs being the most common initial triggers in todays society. Other causes include:
- Isthmic spondylolisthesis, which is a result of a stress fracture in the vertebrae, causing them to slip and trap the Sciatic nerve
- Lumbar spinal stenosis, which is usually brought on by age, characterised by a narrowing of the spine canal, trapping the nerve
- Piriformis syndrome, which is not actually Sciatica but it causes the same pain and is trapping the Sciatic nerve with the Piriformis muscle in the buttocks. Piriformis Syndrome is one of the most easy Sciatic related conditions to solve with Yoga!
So, the BIG question: How Can Yoga Be Used to Treat Sciatic Discomfort?
Solving Sciatic discomfort with Yoga is not a question of do five poses everyday and it’ll be gone in a week! Unfortunately, everyone starts from different stages, everyone’s body reacts in different ways and when it comes to back pain, you are in it for the long haul!
Back pain is slow to repair and if you are able to completely release the Sciatic nerve, which is not always possible, your body will need maintenance to stop you returning to square one!
In short, I am sorry to say there is no magic cure!
Let’s first look at what muscles to target:
- Adductor Muscles (inside of the thigh)
- External Hip Rotators, particularly the Piriformis
- Hamstrings (back of the upper leg)
- Tensor Fasciae Latae (side of the hip)
- Everything in your Core, so we are talking the Gluteus Group (yes these are integral to your core), abdominals, Erectus Spinae and Quadratus Luborum
So, I think you’ll agree that we are looking at quite a range of muscles, this is because the body works as a whole, each muscle works to support others, look at it as if you were completing a puzzle: all the other jigsaw pieces have to be in the correct place before you have succeeded in finishing the puzzle, otherwise you will not see the whole picture. This is why Yoga can be so helpful for Sciatica as most poses use multiple muscles, as opposed to isolating individual muscles.
I am going to give you quite an in depth list of poses, which go across quite a range of abilities. So, start with what you can manage and gently make your way through the list. Try to practice around five poses every day for six days of the week. As ever, please remember I am a Yoga Instructor not a Doctor, check with your medical practitioner before starting anything that you are uncertain about.
It is important to start gently, I recommend child’s pose, cat / cow, Frog Pose, Bound Ankle Pose and a Double Knee Twist:
The Warriors are all excellent here, 1,2 and 3! As is Triangle Pose, Rotated Triangle Pose and a lovely traditional Plank:
And lastly lets add a couple for flexibility …
Pigeon Pose has to be the ultimate winner here, I truly believe that pigeon pose is one the best poses for Sciatica and back soreness in general! I would also recommend Half Lord of the Fish Pose:
I believe that I have offered a good range of Yoga poses to help ease your Sciatic soreness! There are also other great options for treating Sciatica, including physiotherapy, seeing a Chiropractor and Acupuncture. So have a look at all your options and I would recommend seeing a doctor to discuss their recommendations too!
Feel free to come to one of my back pain relief classes or to simply book a private session if you would like to take a more in depth approach to solving back pain with yoga and of course feel free to email me any questions you have and leave your comments below!