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Rest vs. Activity for Pain Due to Sciatica


When discomfort related to irritation of the sciatic nerve first becomes noticeable, it's understandable to prefer to rest as much as possible to avoid triggering symptoms. This is generally fine for a brief time. However, most treatments for sciatica include some type of exercise recommendations. We explain why being active is typically more beneficial below.

Why Being Active Helps with Sciatica

It may seem counterintuitive to be active when you're experiencing recurring discomfort from sciatica. However, too much rest can do more harm than good. The main reason is because a lack of sufficient activity weakens muscles around the lower back area. Should this happen, your spine will absorb more of the pressure from your daily movements. This added stress could then irritate the sciatic nerve, which starts in the lower back area, and aggravate or worsen symptoms.

Finding a Healthy Balance between Rest & Activity

If pain becomes severe from sciatica flare-ups, limited rest and taking a break from certain activities can be beneficial. Otherwise, it's more helpful to balance out brief periods of rest with appropriate activities or exercises. Finding the balance that's right for you is often a trial-and-error process. It's one that begins with getting an accurate determination of what's irritating your sciatic nerve. This is important since additional treatment may be needed to ease or eliminate the source of the nerve irritation. Also, a personalized plan helps you find a healthy balance between rest and being active and usually involves input from your doctor, an appropriate specialist or surgeon, and a physical therapist.

How Activity Can Help You Manage Sciatica

According to Spine Health, activity that includes prescribed or recommended exercises based on individuals’ abilities and symptoms can help people manage sciatica in several ways. These include:

• Increasing muscle strength
• Increasing circulation
• Boosting bone health, which reduces the risk of developing inflammation-based conditions such as arthritis that could worsen sciatica symptoms

Additionally, you may be able to reduce stiffness of the sciatic nerve with certain
exercises for sciatic nerve pain. One of these is called "nerve gliding," or stretching. Mobilization exercises could also ease sciatic nerve stiffness and ease your discomfort. Activities or stretches of this nature may minimize or reverse immune system issues that contribute to sciatica as well.

Types of Activities Often Recommended for Sciatica Patients

Fortunately, there are many ways to safely be active when you have sciatica. Recommended exercises are typically based on what's causing your sciatic nerve to be irritated. If it's a
herniated disc (sometimes referred to as a “ruptured” or “bulging” disc), core-strengthening routines are often beneficial. Other activities and forms of exercise that tend to be safe and beneficial for sciatica patients include:

• Walking at a steady, comfortable pace
• Swimming or other activities that can be done in water
• Hamstring stretches to strengthen muscles that indirectly support the spine
• Yoga and similar disciplines that can be done a more slow and controlled way 

Patients who have had discectomies for herniated discs may experience sciatica if their discs become reherniated, which often occurs if there’s a large hole in the outer ring of the disc after surgery. Fortunately, there’s a new treatment shown to reduce the risk of reherniation by closing the hole in the disc after a discectomy. This treatment is done immediately following the discectomy—during the same operation—and doesn’t require any additional incisions or time in the hospital. Barricaid was proven 95 percent effective in a study of more than 500 patients, meaning 95 percent of patients didn’t experience a reoperation due to reherniation in the two-year study time frame.

If you have any questions about the Barricaid treatment, ask your doctor or contact us at 844-288-7474.

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