SCIATIC NERVE PAIN - HOW YOGA & OTHER MODALITIES CAN HELP
If you’ve ever suffered from sciatic nerve pain, you know just how painful and debilitating it can be. To figure out why it’s happening and what we can do to help, it will first be helpful to know a little more about this often troublesome nerve.
The sciatic nerve is actually five nerve roots exiting out of the lower part of the spine (technically, the fourth and fifth lumbar nerves and the first three nerves of the sacral spine) that come together to form one giant nerve (about the width of a thumb) that runs through the posterior hips, glutes and down the back of the leg before branching out at the knee to form two nerves that continue on down the lower leg through the bottom of the foot.
If you've ever experienced pain associated with the sciatic nerve, you're not the only one. Sciatic nerve pain affects millions of people. The pain can manifest as a low dull ache, numbness, weakness and often even a sharp shooting pain that can leave you feeling debilitated.
Because of the size of this nerve (the longest and largest in the body), there are many things we commonly do and many common issues that can cause irritation. Sitting for extended periods of time, standing/walking with the feet and legs overly externally rotated, disc degeneration, pregnancy, poor posture or a tight/weak piriformis muscle are just a few.
Damage or impingement to the sciatic nerve can feel like sharp shooting pain from the low back all the way down the leg, or a dull ache in the low back. Creating space for the sciatic nerve to mobilize is a very important step to becoming pain free. Try doing these three things* in order and see how you feel (links to some videos demonstrating some of these techniques are at the end of this article):
Myofascial Release This technique helps by applying compression to the muscles and tissues around the nerves, similar to a massage. When the myofascial release tool is removed, the tissue draws in fluid from the surrounding areas (imbibes) and creates better hydration allowing for more efficient sliding and gliding between the muscles, nerves etc.
Nerve Flossing (or Neural Glides) This is a gentle technique used to gently coax the nerves to move more effectively through the tissue by placing gentle tension on either end of the nerve in alternating patterns.
Supine Pigeon (Kapotanasana) A classic yoga pose done on your back. Creating this shape in the legs and hips can feel like a really nice stretch & release and can also help to reinforce the previous two techniques for a longer lasting effect.
A regular movement routine incorporating the above movements/modalities and careful attention to how you stand and how long you sit, can help you avoid experiencing this pain in the future.
*If you’re experiencing acute sciatic nerve pain (meaning it’s happening right now), wait until the pain has subsided before trying the above recommendations. Nerve flossing will be a good first step after the pain has subsided.
Click the links below to take either full classes or to see demonstrations of the techniques/modalities listed above: