Getting on your nerves?
Have you ever heard anyone around you complain about their sciatic nerve or pinched nerve? Have you ever experienced pain in your lower back that travels down your thigh and leg?
A sciatic nerve irritation also called sciatic neuralgia or sciatalgia is indeed a fairly common problem. The sciatic nerve is the biggest nerve in the body and is one of the most important nerves of the lower limb. It originates from several lumbar and sacral nerve roots (L4-S3) and descends into the buttock, behind the thigh, behind the knee then divides into two branches to innervate to the foot. This nerve can cause you pain or discomfort if there are any compression sites along its path or if it is under too much or prolonged tension. Pain or a burning sensation may be felt anywhere along the path of the nerve which may or may not be accompanied by weakness or loss of sensation somewhere in the leg.
Reducing your symptoms
If you suspect an irritation of the sciatic nerve, you may want to avoid tensioning the nerve to reduce symptoms. Here are some ways to get there. First, avoid prolonged sitting as much as possible. When sitting, try to keep your spine tall, maintaining a small curve or space in the lower back position (try not to round your lower back). Do not stretch your leg in front of you, as this position increases the tension on the nerve. Also try not to sit in a soft lazy-boy type chair. When you have to sit or drive for a long time, take breaks. Standing and walking will benefit you!
Aside from these static positions, the way you move greatly influences how you tense your nerves. Going from a sitting to standing position can be challenging for someone experiencing sciatic pain. To help, we could work on trunk control and learning to use the gluteal muscles to stand up. This is the perfect example of a movement that is performed repeatedly during the day, but can become an irritant if not done correctly. When going from sitting to standing, you should try to keep your back in a neutral position, which means keeping a small curvature in your lower spine. You can try resting the back of your hand on this area to monitor it while standing up. By advancing near the edge of the chair and tilting the trunk forward from the hips, you will be able to get up without rounding your back. We can even think of tightening the buttocks when getting up by driving the feet into the ground. Try this technique every time you get up during the day! Refer to your physiotherapist if you are unsure about the technique.
However, be aware that pain from the sciatic nerve is not the only cause of pain that can occur in this region! These recommendations will be beneficial in most cases, but a physiotherapy evaluation could allow you to identify the source of your pain in order to optimally treat your condition.