Understanding Sciatica: 3 Exercises That Irritate and 3 That Help

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Part 1 of understanding sciatica focused on what sciatica is and part 2 focused on risk factors that can contribute to people having sciatica. The third part in this series will focus on exercises that you may be doing that unintentionally cause sciatica irritation and exercises that can help if you are experiencing symptoms.

Exercises that may be irritating your sciatica symptoms
1. Ab exercise - the double leg lift. While it’s true that building up your core strength can be helpful in avoiding lower back pain, it can be easy to overdue it. There are certain ab exercises that make it easy to overdo without intending to do so. Many people who are able to lie down and do a straight single leg lift go on to do double leg lifts. This is where the problem starts. In order to safely to double leg lifts, you must make sure that your core is strong enough. For many people, a single leg lift will suffice to exercise the core without irritating sciatica symptoms like the double straight leg lift can.

2. Back exercise - the bent over row. In this particular exercise form and proper weight are absolutely essential. If you round your back when you pick up the bar or do the movement, you are priming yourself for irritating your sciatica. This can happen with people who have good form who are trying to get that one extra rep - often sacrificing form and a potential injury for the sake of that one rep. Always maintain proper form.

3. Stretching - hamstring stretch. It’s known in exercise that stretching is intended to help avoid injury, but the hamstring stretch can aggravate your sciatica pain. While it is good to stretch your hamstring, if you overdo it, this stretch can also stretch your sciatic nerve. This can then cause irritating pain that persists for days.

Exercises that may help your sciatica symptoms
Low impact exercises will be key to helping your maintain your fitness without causing pain and irritation. The three exercises you could try are:
1. Walking in a pool: walking in a pool allows for great resistance that is low impact and, depending upon your focus, alternates between low and high intensity.

2. Riding a stationary bike: using a stationary or recumbent stationary bike will allow you to exercise without putting added stress on your lower back or sciatic nerve.

3. Using an elliptical machine: using an elliptical machine allows you to exercise at the intensity level you desire without the jarring impact that often accompanies running.

How do you know if you have sciatica?
Only a consultation with a qualified physician. As always, it's important to note that this is not a substitute for medical advice. If you would like information on this condition or if you want to schedule an appointment to be seen by one of our nationally renowned doctors, please fill out the form on this page.

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