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.
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.
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.
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.
• 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:
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 knee towards your mid- section (chest), and circle a strap around the curve or ache of your right foot. On the off chance that you are a prepared yoga expert, utilize two fingers and snare them onto the enormous toe
• After that, raise your right leg up to the roof or ceiling and keep your leg straight in a way that your arms are parallel to each other, and press your shoulders towards are the floor.
• Continue pushing and stretching your left leg, pushing the highest point of your left thigh down with the left hand. The augmentation of the right leg must make an agreeable extend in the back of the leg.
Note of Caution:
• If you think you have sciatica it is advisable to get a proper diagnosis from a doctor. You should seek medical attention if you are having severe weakness/numbness in the legs or experience loss of bladder or bowel control.
• If you are on medication, check with your doctor before taking other medications such as painkillers and always read the labels to ensure you do not exceed the recommended dose.
• If you are practicing yoga with sciatica, always let the teacher know so that they can advise you on how to modify your practice. Remain mindful of the problem area and do not push yourself with anything that doesn’t feel right or feels painful.
• If you are new to yoga it is advisable to practice under the guidance of a qualified teacher so they can help advise and correct alignment.
• If you are thinking of starting yoga and have a medical condition, it is advisable to check with your doctor.
Sarah Williams is a Qualified Yoga Teacher based in London with an online presence @sarahlucyyoga on Instagram and Facebook. She also blogs about yoga and health & wellbeing topics on her website. Sarah’s focus is Vinyasa Flow, Hatha and Ashtanga styles of yoga and she completed part of her yoga teacher training in India.
As well as being a yoga teacher Sarah is also a Chartered Accountant. She fell in love with yoga as it was a release from the office, it taught her to value her health and improved the attitude she had towards life and herself. As a teacher she is able to pass on the benefits of yoga to her students and finds the job incredibly rewarding.
She has completed her 300 hr advanced teacher training from Sampoorna Yoga Goa in January-February 2019. If interested in Yoga Teacher Training please browse our Teacher Training page