Sciatica: Expert demonstrates exercise for spinal stenosis
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Chartered physiotherapist, Sammy Margo, detailed three moves to help ease sciatica pain. Before attempting any of these exercises, Margo insisted: “If you feel any pain or discomfort [during the moves], you need to stop.” Margo recommends stretching and mobilising the piriformis muscle, located in the buttock region, which is “closely aligned to the sciatic nerve”. First, you need to lay down with your back on the floor and your knees bent up off the floor.
Then take the ankle of the leg you want to stretch and place it over the opposite knee.
Clasp your hands under the thigh of the bent leg and pull it towards you while engaging the tummy muscles at the same time.
Margo recommends holding this stretch for at least 10 seconds to work on the buttock muscles.
Ideally, you should do this stretch three times on each affected leg.
Another stretch approved by Margo begins in the same position where you are lying down with your back onto the floor and legs bent.
Now, though, you need to bring one knee up towards your chest, but slightly take it to the opposite shoulder.
Margo suggests bouncing the knee that is towards the opposite shoulder to help mobilise the piriformis.
The last move recommended by Margo is to move your knees side to side, while next to each other, and engage the abdominal muscles.
“The aim is to really stretch out and mobilise and free up the piriformis as much as possible,” said Margo.
What causes sciatica?
The Mayo Clinic explained: “Sciatica most commonly occurs when a herniated disk, bone spur on the spine or narrowing of the spine (spinal stenosis) compresses part of the [sciatica] nerve.
“This causes inflammation, pain and often some numbness in the affected leg.”
The sciatic nerve branches from the lower back, through to the hips and buttocks, and down each leg.
Risk factors for sciatica involve prolonged sitting or a sedentary lifestyle.
Age-related changes to the spine are also a risk factor, as well as obesity.
While most cases of sciatica will resolve on their own, it can lead to permanent nerve damage.
Seek immediate medical advice if any of the three apply:
- You have lost feeling in the affected leg
- There is weakness in the affected leg
- There is a loss of bowel or bladder function.
Also seek medical advice if sciatica pain persists or worsens after one week of onset.
While repeated episodes of sciatica might occur, there are ways to help prevent the condition.
This includes regular exercise to keep your back strong, which involves paying special attention to the muscles in your abdomen and lower back.
You also need to “maintain proper posture when you sit” and use “good body mechanics”.
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