If you have ever experienced the pain of sciatica, it’s not something you’ll ever forget. The condition is not a disease, but a symptom of lumbar radiculopathy, which impacts the nerves in the lower back. Sciatica is a shooting pain that runs through the glutes, down the leg, and sometimes all the way into the foot. It comes like a flash and can disappear just as quickly. It can also stay with you, leaving you with both persistent pain and with weakness.
Sciatica can come and go. It can be a temporary problem (a lot of women get it when they’re pregnant) or it can become a chronic condition that has life altering effects. A physician can help you to overcome sciatica pain and treat the underlying condition, but it is also important that you take steps to prevent them from coming back once they have been resolved. One of the best ways to do this is to strengthen the muscles that support your lower back and abdomen.
The more stable and strong your core is and the more limber and flexible the muscles in your lower body, the more you decrease your risk for sciatica returning. Regularly doing the three movements shown here are an excellent way to increase strength and stretch the body parts that contribute to postural alignment and reduce stress and strain.
o McGill Curl-Ups – This exercise is similar to a crunch, but instead of placing your hands behind your neck you put them under your lower back. This takes stress off of the lumbar spine and the discs in your back. Do ten curl-ups in this position with your left leg extended and right knee bent, then repeat with the right leg extended and left leg bent. Do up to 3 sets of these to strengthen your abdominal muscles.
o Bird Dogs – This exercise won’t feel like you’re working out at all, but it is great at strengthening your abdominals and teaching you to use your lower back less and hips more. Start by getting down on your knees and putting your hands on the floor directly under your shoulders. Try to keep your back straight, with your chin and backside tucked under, then extend your right arm forward and left leg backwards at the same time. Hold the position, trying to keep yourself steady, then lower the leg and arm and repeat the motion using the opposite leg and arm. Do 8 repetitions per side for 3 sets.
o Side Planks – You may be familiar with the traditional abdominal plank, but side planks strengthen the oblique muscles of your abdomen, which help support you and take pressure off of your lower back. The side plank is done by laying your body down flat on the floor with your feet together and the bottom forearm positioned below your shoulder. Raise your hips and align your body in a straight line, supporting your body on your arm and your bottom foot. Do three repetitions per side, holding the position for 8 to 10 seconds each time.