Sciatica is a term that is often confused with general back pain. But, it is not limited to the back only. The sciatic nerve, the widest and longest nerve in the body, goes all the way from the lower back, through buttocks, down the legs, and ends below the knee. It controls various muscles and provides sensation to the skin of the foot and the greatest part of the lower leg. It is important to note that sciatica is not a condition but a symptom of another issue involving the sciatic nerve itself.
Shooting pain along the sciatic nerve is the most common symptom of sciatica. Other symptoms include tingling sensation in the feet and toes and numbness in the leg along the nerve; from the lower back, through the buttock, and down the back of the legs.
Treatments for Sciatica
Acute sciatica treatments
Self-care measures like:
- Exercises like light stretching or walking
- Hot or cold compression packs
- Over-the-counter painkillers
Chronic sciatica treatments
Treatment of chronic sciatica involves a combination of self-care measures and medical treatment:
- Physical therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Exercises and Stretches
Exercises and stretches that help relieve the pain are the best and safest approach. Here are the top piriformis stretches:
McKenzie Press Up
Lie on the floor with the face faced down. Relax the head for a couple of minutes on both sides. Lean on the elbows, breathe deeply, and go back to the original position.
Short Adductor Stretch
Sit down with the feet placed upfront. Hold the right ankle with the left hand and the left hand with the right one. Push down the knees and hold for half a minute.
Long Abductor Stretch
Sit on the floor with the legs extended out. Tilt the torso and put the hands in front of the body. Hold 20 seconds.
Piriformis Side Stretch
Lie down, keeping the legs flat and the back straight. Tilt the affected leg and place the foot on the outside of the other leg. Put the hurt leg in the middle line of the body and keep the position for 30 seconds.
Supine Piriformis Stretch
Lie down and tilt the knees. Cross one leg towards the chest and use the hands to hold the knee and ankle, respectively. Draw the leg to the front and keep it at the same angle with the ankle. Hold for 30 seconds.
Standing Piriformis Stretch
Stand up, with the painful leg placed over the knee of the other leg. Lower the hip at 45 degrees, tilt the torso, and extend the arms at the same line with the floor. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat with the other leg.
Outer Hip Piriformis Stretch
As you lie down, bend the hurt leg, keeping the foot near the other knee. Tilt the leg to the opposite side as you touch the floor with the knee. Extend the left leg, put the right hand on the knee, and raise the left hand. Lower the arm on the opposite side of the knee. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat with the other leg.