Sciatica is the pain in the lower back caused because of the irritation in the largest nerve in the body called the sciatic nerve. When there is damage or pressure on the nerve, the pain radiates along the entire path of the nerve and usually extends from the lumbar region of the back to behind the thigh and sometimes up to the knee. This feature makes this pain different from other back aches. Depending on where the nerve is irritated, the pain may affect only one side of the body or both.
Lumbar spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease and spondylolisthesis are common causes of sciatica. Apart from all these common causes, obesity, regular use of high heels, sleeping on very soft mattresses and lack of exercises are also contributors to the pain in the long run.
NSAIDs and anti-inflammatory drugs are sometimes prescribed but they do not relieve chronic pain. Surgical procedures are the last course of action in cases which cannot be treated. Chiropractic exercises which reduce the intensity of pain and aim to treat the cause rather than the symptom are much more effective.
- Yogic postures: Yogic exercises have been well documented and they provide instant relief from chronic pain. The basic exercise of the cat and dog, wherein one needs to sit on all fours and first stretch the abdomen outwards and then inwards is a great cure for sciatic pain.
- Paschimutasan: This is a widely practiced yogic posture in which one sits erect with both legs outstretched in front and toes pointed. After a deep inhalation, he bends down from the abdomen to touch the knees with the forehead and hold the toes with both hands. This is to relieve the person of gases and of inflammations in the lower back.
- Extension exercise: This is to be done lying on the stomach with hands and feet stretched outwards. Holding each foot with the opposite had and holding the posture for 10 seconds before switching to the other hand and foot will help in reducing the pressure on the sciatic nerve.
- Water exercise: Water poses resistance to any body movement and therefore, such exercises are more beneficial as compared to the normal ones. Standing in the pool and stretching each leg towards the sides and holding the posture for 5 seconds will help in reducing the pain and also prevent the person from being hurt as water offers enough support and cushioning to the muscles of the body.
- Curl-up exercise: This one is particularly for the back and a healthier spine. Lie on your back and outstretch the hands and feet to feel relaxed. Slowly pull your feet such that the knee touches the torso and pull the upper torso such that the chin rests on the knee. Hold the posture tight with both hands and stay in the position of a fetus. This helps reduce inflammation and relieves pain in the long run.
- Cross stretch: Crossing both legs on the front and bending down from the waist to touch the toes relaxes the muscles of the lower back and acts as a good stretch for the compressed nerve.