About 5 weeks ago I started experiencing severe pain from my lower back down to my right leg. I’ve thrown out my back a time or two, but this pain was different. I thought it would go away on its own, but it just seemed to get worse. I decided to head to the doctor and was diagnosed with Sciatica. Sciatica is a very common injury even though I had never heard of it before. There are more than 3 million cases in the US every year. Sciatica is described by the Mayo Clinic as:
“Anything that puts pressure on or irritates the sciatic nerve, causing pain that shoots down the back of one buttock or thigh. The sensation of pain can vary widely. Sciatica may feel like a mild ache; a sharp, burning sensation; or extreme discomfort. Sciatica can also cause feelings of numbness, weakness, and tingling. It’s usually caused when a herniated disk or bone spur in the spine presses on the nerve.”
The doctor prescribed me some steroids to help with the inflammation, but they were only for one week. The healing process for Sciatica is lengthy. It could last up to 12 weeks. The steroids helped make the pain manageable, but I’ve found some stretches and other remedies that have really helped me have some temporary relief as I heal fully.
The Cobra Pose
To begin the pose lie flat on the floor with your belly facing down and place your hands directly underneath the shoulders. Ensure your thighs are parallel to each other and your elbows are tucked in close to your body. Tense your legs, contract your thighs, and press the feet firmly into the floor as you gently lift, pressing through the hands. I do the cobra stretch as many times throughout the day that I can. It feels so good to get that stretch in and relieve some pressure off of the sciatic nerve.
Frog movements help restore internal rotation to tight hips. The trick to frog pose is to have adequate padding for your knees, so grab a blanket or an extra yoga mat. From an all-fours position, spread your knees as wide as you can, shins and feet in line with your knees. Lean forward onto your forearms, and then shift your weight forward and back and work into any tight spots you find. Go slowly and gently, and only stretch into the range that feels comfortable and safe.
This pose challenges your balance and increases glute strength on the standing leg. When you raise your right leg, your right hip should stay even with your left (don’t allow it to turn up toward the sky!). Spinning your right foot such that your toes point to the floor can help guide you into the correct alignment. Arms can reach forward, or rest your hands on your hips if the full version is causing your form to collapse.
Another helpful thing I try and do twice a day is using a heating pad for 20 minutes and then switching to an ice pack for 20 minutes directly on the place that I’m feeling the most pain. If you’re like me and you have an office job sitting in a chair for 8 hours is the absolute worst pain of all for my Sciatica. So if you’re in the same boat as I am, make sure that you are standing up from your chair as much as you can. If you have to set a timer to remind yourself, be sure to do so. This is the worst injury and longest healing process I’ve ever experienced, but by continuing to do these things I’m hoping for a full recovery. At least I’ll be fully prepared if this ever happens again! If you’re experiencing Sciatica, hopefully these tips can offer you some relief, but definitely be sure to consult with your doctor. If you have other tips that have worked for you, please let me know in the comments section!