When the body experiences some form of acute flare up of pain, physicians often prescribe bed rest as treatment. The same also applies for sciatica.
However, bed rest therapy for sciatica is usually restricted to a day or two. This is because extended bed rest can be counterproductive to relief of the condition. More than two days’ rest can cause further pain and discomfort rather than quell it. An extended stretch of inactivity weakens the back muscles and disorients the spinal structure. This in turn strains the back and worsens sciatica pain. When you take bed rest longer than prescribed for sciatica, the pain will have worsened when you try to move after the elongated rest period.
Physical therapists often prescribe an exercise regimen to counter sciatica pain. The thought of exercising may seem like a bad idea, considering the sciatica pain. However, exercising is one of the best remedies for relieving the pain caused by the condition. By exercising, you strengthen the back muscles and tone the spinal structure. Exercising also lubricates the spinal disc with fluids and essential nutrients needed to keep them healthy. With healthy spinal discs, strengthened back muscles and toned spinal structure, the sciatica pain will be eliminated.
There are two main benefits of exercising when experiencing sciatica:
- Immediate pain relief
- Reduce the chances of the condition recurring
Sciatica is not a medical condition by itself but a symptom of an underlying condition. Therefore, for the exercise therapy to work effectively, it should be targeted to the underlying problem. Before embarking on any exercise treatment for sciatica, consult a doctor who can diagnose the cause of the pain and design an effective treatment. The correct diagnosis of the cause of sciatica is the first step to designing the right exercise treatment.
The first exercise phase for sciatica should be done under the watchful eye of a physical therapist. The therapist will guide you on how to do the prescribed exercises to relieve your pain. Knowing the right exercise routine but doing it in the wrong way will not ease the pain. Instead, it can aggravate sciatica.
Elements of an Effective Exercise Regimen
To alleviate sciatica pain, your exercise program should have the following elements:
- Core muscle strength exercises–These should target the back muscle structures to condition and strengthen them. Improved back muscles will help in alleviating the pain by providing better support.
- Specific diagnosis –The exercise regimen should be designed based on the underlying cause of sciatica. Therefore, accurate diagnosis of the underlying condition is vital when designing the exercise program. Engaging in the wrong exercise will worsen the situation.
- Hamstring stretching – Regardless of the diagnosis of the underlying cause of sciatica, hamstring strengthening exercise will be beneficial in relieving the strain on the back.
- Exercising correctly – The exercise treatment will only be effective if it is done the right way. It is advisable for patients to work with a physical therapist during the initial phase of the exercise sessions to be guided on the proper way to exercises.
- Aerobics exercise – Aerobics supplement sciatica exercise by improving general body fitness and blood circulation. An alternative to aerobics has the same effects and benefits is brisk walking.
The above is an overview of sciatica and the exercises that can be prescribed to relieve the condition. For the exercise regimen to be effective it should be incorporated in to your daily routine and not be done just as an afterthought. Sciatica patients should also eliminate or minimize activities that can strain their backs.