Sciatica pain can be excruciating. It is generally caused by one of two different things — either Piriformis Syndrome or compression in the spine. Piriformis Syndrome is traced to a small muscle in your hips that is responsible for rotating your thigh externally. When that muscle gets too tight, it can compress the sciatic nerve and cause pain. The other thing behind sciatica pain is related to the discs in the spine. When two vertebrae become compressed and cause the disc between them to bulge, it can put pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Sciatica can be a brief problem or it can become chronic. When it strikes it is very tempting to climb into bed and try to escape the pain, but studies have shown that lack of movement can actually make the situation worse. The good news is that there are gentle exercises, including some yoga poses, that can provide some real and lasting relief.
If your sciatica pain is coming from piriformis muscle tightness, then your goal is to take away that tightness by stretching the muscle, while if it is caused by a bulging disc your goal is to stretch the hip flexors and iliopsoas muscle. By taking pressure off of the nerve, you can alleviate the pain and numbness that you are experiencing.
There is no reason to feel helpless in the face of pain. Here are some simple yoga poses and movements that may bring relief.
• Prone Reverse Clam – To see if this will help you, start by standing in front of a mirror and checking to see if your knees point forward or are turned out. If they do point outward, this exercise should help. Lie on your stomach with your head down, forehead resting on your hands and elbows bent to the side. Bend your knees so that your feet are pointing towards the ceiling and parallel to each other. Let them each fall to the side so that they are wider than your hip width. Return them to parallel.
• Cow Face – Lie on your back with your knees pulled up to your chest, then cross one thigh over the other. Hold your knees in that position for a deep stretch.
• Forward and Side Lunges – These stretch and strengthen the glutes and relieve pressure on the piriformis.
• Press Ups – This decompresses the spine and makes room for the sciatic nerve. Lie on your stomach with palms on the ground, then push up gently and hold this position. Try to inhale before pushing up, then exhale as you’re pushing. When you inhale again, lower yourself back to the ground.
• Walking Backwards – Though this may seem strange, it can bring quick relief to sciatica symptoms because it reverses the posterior tilt in the pelvis that many people with sciatica tend to maintain. Walking backward diminishes the curve in the lumbar spine, stretches hip flexors and eases pressure on the nerve.