What Is Sciatica?
The sciatic nerve originates between the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae at the lower portion of the spinal column. As it progresses down the spine, the nerve separates into two branches that travel through both sides of the buttocks and down the legs. The compression of the nerve results in low back, hip, and leg pain, numbness and tingling, and weakness. Most board-certified spine surgeons in Los Angeles will exhaust all conservative measures, like a regular stretching routine, before considering surgical means of relief.
True sciatica occurs when the nerve is being pinched along the spine by a bulging disc, inflamed muscle, or bony prominence. Stretching and physical activity are more beneficial to the healing process than rest, and many poses that are performed in yoga are particularly helpful for providing sciatica relief.
- Hamstring stretches are the first line of defense in treating painful flare-ups. They are best performed by gently elevating the leg on a chair and allowing the muscle to slowly stretch. The lower back should not bend forward because doing so can further irritate the sciatic nerve.
- Low lunges can also help release a pinched nerve and provide relief. The stretch is performed by bending down on one leg and extending the opposite leg back behind the body with the top of the foot resting flat on the floor. The arms should be raised straight above the head, and the pose should be held for approximately 30 seconds as tolerated.
When the nerve is being compressed by the piriformis muscle located deep in the buttocks, a different type of sciatic pain occurs. The discomfort can be agonizing, making walking and other activities difficult or impossible.
- The king pigeon pose helps release the pinched nerve and is accomplished by extending one leg behind the body with the foot bent so that only the tips of the toes touch the floor. The front leg crosses in front of the body with the knee bent and resting on the floor.
- The cow’s face pose is performed by sitting on the floor with one leg extended forward and the other crossing over the body with the knee bent upward. The muscle is stretched by wrapping the arms around the leg and gently pulling the knee toward the body
If all other means of treatment have failed to provide adequate relief, it might be time to consider surgery like a lumbar laminectomy or other spine decompression surgery. To speak with an experienced spine surgeon about your diagnosis and treatment options, please call The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration at (310) 828-7757 and request an in-person consultation.