Pilates for Sciatica: How to Treat Sciatica

Posted on 10/06/2018 by Lyndsay in Recommendations Advice

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Pilates for Sciatica: How to Treat Sciatica

Find out more about why you might have sciatica and specialist Clinical Pilates for sciatica exercises.

'I have sciatica' is a term I frequently hear my patients use to describe pain in their leg. What most people don't realise is sciatica is actually a symptom not a medical condition. We describe sciatica as an umbrella term for pain radiating down the back of the leg.

The sciatic nerve originates in the lumbar spine (lower back) and travels down into the buttock and down the back of the leg. Pain from the sciatic nerve can be felt anywhere from the lumbar spine down to the foot. People may describe sciatica as an ache or more often a sharp, burning and often excruciating pain. There can often be pins and needles or numbness associated with sciatica.

There are actually a number of reasons why you might be suffering with sciatica, which can be addressed with Clinical Pilates for sciatica exercises:

  • Disc prolapse (slipped disc - see our blog on what is a disc prolapse). A lumbar disc that has prolapsed will press on a nerve root in the spine that will give you leg pain. These can vary in severity and I would always recommend seeing a physiotherapist if a disc prolapse is suspected.
  • Piriformis syndrome. The piriformis muscle is a large muscle in the buttock that has the sciatic nerve running underneath it. It arrises from the sacrum (part of the pelvis) to the hip. When the piriformis muscle gets tight and overactive it can press on the sciatic nerve to give you sciatica. The most effective treatment for this is to stretch the piriformis muscle. Read here how to stretch the piriformis. However the question has to be asked, why did the piriformis get tight in the first place? Do you have an underlying pelvic or lumbar dysfunction? It is highly likely you have some muscle imbalances around the hip and pelvis. If the piriformis muscles is overworking because of weaknesses in the other muscles around the hip, the only way to stop the pirifomis overworking is to retrain the weaker muscles. These muscle imbalances can be corrected with our pelvic workouts
  • Spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the structures around the nerve which will cause compression of the nerve and therefore result in pain. This may be caused by arthritic overgrowth of the facet joints (the joints that attach the spinal segments together), disc degeneration and loss of disc height. Typically the symptoms of stenosis are leg pain that is worse with walking (as you compress the stenotic area) and eased with bending forwards or sitting (as you open the spine up and ease the pressure on the nerve). This condition is usually degenerative and therefore treatment would be management of the condition. I always recommend my patients do core stability work with clinical Pilates to strengthen the muscles that support the spine. This allows the muscles to support the spine when standing and walking to reduce pain. We can tailor your workouts if you have a spinal stenosis. Sign up here for your free trial.
  • Spondylolythesis. This is a condition where one vertebrae slips forwards. It usually occurs in the lumbar spine. As one vertebrae slips forward of another it can squash and compress the nerves that exit around the spine, causing sciatica. People with a spondylolythesis will typically complain of pain in lumbar extension (arching back or walking). The treatment for this is spinal stabilising exercises such as clinical Pilates. If you have a spondylolythesis you can let us know on your health questionnaire when you register so we can pick workouts suited to that problem.

Diagnosing the reason for sciatica is important in terms of how it is treated. If you need any advice on your problems/symptoms please email me on lyndsay@yourpilatesphysio.com

 

Clinical Pilates teaches you how to correct movement dysfunctions and offload structures that are causing compression of the sciatic nerve. It will strengthen the muscles that support your lower back and reduce pain. It is a very effective treatment for sciatica.

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