by Richard A. Convery

An excessive degree of compression being brought to bear upon the sciatic nerve emerging from the spinal column results in sciatica, an extremely painful condition which can recur, and can disable the sufferer for considerable time. Over many years, so many sufferers of sciatica have asked me if there are any effective exercises they can do for themselves to reduce the likelihood and severity of a recurrence of sciatica?

Importantly, due to the fact that sciatic pain can be felt in a variety of places, and in a variety of intensities within these places, sciatica is so often misdiagnosed and mistreated and with the possibility of varying degrees of inflammation present, the way forward has invariably become a confusing one.

The initial treatment protocol MUST be to address the inflammation that is likely present, and for this to be done before any significant rehabilitation can commence. Failure to do so is fraught with danger, complications, and the potential for further suffering.

Once the inflammation has been reduced, the crucial de-compression upon the sciatic nerve can begin. This is a process involving the restoration of the body’s natural symmetry, the body’s soft tissue elasticity in the lumbar spinal region, and the restoration to an adequate level of specific spinal support strength.

These three factors of restoration are in fact crucial to the restoration of the lumbar spinal movement functions; 1) lateral spinal rotation, 2) lateral spinal flexion, and 3) anterior/posterior spinal flexion/extension.

Our objective is to diminish the potential for recurrent sciatic pain, but the question of how to do so remains. Critically, we should recognise that, having achieved the necessary inflammation reduction, the restoration of body symmetry, restoration of elasticity in the lumbar region, and the re-introduction of spinal support strength, are all vital.

The method is foundational, however, it is also imperative to recognise and accept that the process be adhered to in a systematic and controlled manner, or the susceptibility to further attacks of sciatica will remain high. As with any nerve compression, the cause of the compression needs to be eliminated or significantly reduced.

Routine care, much as is the case with a number of other spinal conditions, is vital to the maintenance of a healthy and pain-free body. Sciatica is no exception, and yes, specific exercises and stretches play a foundational role in such maintenance. The nature, intensity, duration, and timing of these exercises and stretches, are just as vital to the recovery, as is the awareness of the need to do them, so, beware. The exercises should, at least initially, be done in a non-weight-bearing position, in order to minimise the potential for further compression. Within this article, it is not possible, nor is it wise to detail specific exercises for sciatica, rather than to encourage the sufferer that self-help is certainly available and proven effective.

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