How Yoga can Help with Sciatica

Sciatica refers to pain that is experienced along the sciatic nerve which travels from the lower back and down each leg.

Symptoms
Common symptoms include:
• Pain in the lower back, back of the leg, hip, rear and the severity of the pain can be different from person to person. It usually occurs at one side of the body.
• Burning/tingling down the leg
• Numbness in the leg or the foot
• Weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg or foot.

What causes Sciatica?

The sciatic nerve is a long nerve that travels from the lower back and down each leg, past the hips and buttocks. Sciatica occurs when this nerve becomes compressed/pinched. The compression can be a result of a herniated disk in your spine, a growth of bone on your vertebrae or sometimes a tumor. Disease such as diabetes can also cause damage. Sometimes after an injury around the leg or the spine, the muscles can contract and cause compression against the sciatica nerve.

Another cause can be related to the Piriformis (one of the deep six lateral rotator muscles of the femur, located in the buttocks). If it is tight and compressing the nerve, the piriformis can also create pain or other sensations in the buttocks and down the back of the leg.

Risk factors for sciatica include:
• Age – increases the risk of the problems that can cause pinching to the sciatic nerve, as mentioned above.
• Obesity – results in more stress on the spine.
• Sedentary lifestyle – more likely to develop sciatica than active people.
• Occupation – jobs that require twisting or carrying heavy loads could increase the risk.
• Diabetes – can cause nerve damage.

Diagnosis:
1. Lie down on the back with both legs straight.
2. Raise the leg (keep straight) on the painful side
3. If you cannot lift the leg more than a few feet off the floor then it is likely to be a spinal cause rather than due to the piriformis.

Treatment:
It is not always possible to prevent sciatica but there are some things that could help:
• Posture – avoid compression with the spine when sitting/lifting and maintain proper alignment.
• Exercise – Keep the spine healthy and strengthen core and back muscles. Yoga can help.
• If natural methods don’t cure your problem a doctor might suggest treatment and medication such as anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, narcotics, tricyclic antidepressants, anti-seizure medications.

Yoga Treatment:
• Spinal cause – Restore balance in the spine. Re-establish the lumbar curve.
• Piriformis cause – focus on postures that stretch the piriformis (e.g. pigeon pose).

Recommended yoga poses:
Studies have shown that yoga can help relieve some of the symptoms of sciatica. Yoga postures which can help include the following:
• Cobra (Bhujangasana)
• Half- Seated Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
• Pigeon pose (Rajakapotasana)
• Locust Pose (Salambhasana)
• Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)
• Supported Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana)
• Staff pose (Dandasana)
• Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana)

More guidance on some of the yoga poses:

Cobra (Bhujangasana) - Sampoorna Yoga

Half- Seated Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana) - Sampoorna Yoga

Pigeon pose (Rajakapotasana) - Sampoorna Yoga

Locust Pose (Salambhasana) -Sampoorna Yoga

Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana) - Sampoorna Yoga

Supported Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana) - Sampoorna Yoga

Staff pose (Dandasana) -Sampoorna Yoga

Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana) – as in the page banner.
• Rests on your back with your legs extended and flexed your feet. Now press your feet by your heels.
• Breathe out and pull your right kne