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Sciatica describes pain radiating from your back, into your buttock and down your leg. The sciatic nerve provides most of the motor and sensory activity to the lower limbs. Pressure on the sciatic nerve anywhere along its pathway can cause irritation and inflammation, therefore causing increased pain. Sciatic pain tends to occur only in one leg. It is generally aggravated by sitting and bending. Leg pain is described as burning, tingling of the affected leg. Common causes of sciatic are a herniated disc of the lumbar spine, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, piriformis syndrome and sacroiliac joint dysfunction.
Since sciatica pain can be caused by a number of different structures in your back, not all pilates exercises or stretches will help relieve pain. Some exercises may even aggravate the pain. For this reason, it is important that you see a physiotherapist for assessment, and allow them to prescribe the appropriate exercises for you.
Generally speaking, if your sciatic pain has come on due to spinal stenosis, or spondylolisthesis, flexion based exercises will provide most relief. Examples of this would be doing a child’s pose or cat stretch.
If sciatic pain is being caused by impingement or irritation from a lumbar disc bulge, extension based exercises are most suitable. One common example would be the cobra stretch, which is performed by lying prone, and pushing through your arms to extend your lower back.
Sciatic pain originating from compression by the piriformis or glut medius muscles will respond best to gentle stretching of the gluts, by pulling your knee diagonally across towards the opposite shoulder.
In the long term, Pilates is effective in treating sciatica by improving posture, quality and control of movement, and increasing lumbar spine and sacroiliac joint stability. If you have been experiencing the symptoms of sciatica and want advice on how to manage and get on top of your pain, contact us here to see one of our physiotherapists.