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Exercise vs. Rest for Sciatica Pain


6.28 - Is It Better to Rest or Exercise with Sciatica

If you have ever experienced sciatica, you know how painful and debilitating it can be. Sciatica is a condition that affects the sciatic nerve, which is the longest and thickest nerve in your body. The sciatic nerve runs from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg. When this nerve is irritated, inflamed, pinched, or compressed, it can cause pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness in your lower back, buttocks, or legs.

Sciatica can have various causes, such as a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, piriformis syndrome, or pregnancy. The symptoms can range from mild to severe and can last from a few days to several weeks or months. Some people may also experience complications such as loss of bowel or bladder function in rare cases.

One of the most common questions people with sciatica ask is whether they should rest or exercise to relieve their pain. The answer is not so simple, since different types of sciatica may require different approaches. This article provides some general guidelines that can help you decide what is best for you.

Resting with Sciatica

Resting may seem like the most natural and logical thing to do when you have sciatica pain. After all, you want to avoid any movement or activity that could aggravate your condition or cause more damage to your nerve. However, resting too much or for too long can have negative effects on your recovery and overall health.

Studies have shown that prolonged bed rest can actually worsen sciatica symptoms and increase the risk of chronic low back pain, muscle weakness, stiffness, depression, and blood clots. Therefore, experts recommend limiting bed rest to no more than one or two days after the onset of sciatica pain. After that, you should try to resume your normal daily activities as much as possible while avoiding any movements that cause severe pain or discomfort.

Exercising with Sciatica

Exercising may seem like the last thing you want to do when you have sciatica pain. However, exercising can be beneficial, helping you recover faster and preventing future episodes of sciatica. Exercise can increase your blood circulation, reduce inflammation, strengthen your muscles, increase your flexibility, release endorphins, and improve your mood.

Of course, not all exercises are suitable for people with sciatica. Some exercises may be too strenuous or involve twisting or bending of the spine that could worsen the symptoms or cause further injury. Therefore, you should consult with your doctor or physical therapist before starting any exercise program and follow his or her instructions carefully. The professional can recommend specific exercises that are safe and effective for your type and severity of sciatica.

Some examples of exercises that may be appropriate for those with sciatica include:

  • Stretching exercises – Stretching can relieve tension and tightness in your muscles and joints that may be compressing your nerve. Some common stretches for sciatica include hamstring stretches, piriformis stretches, knee-to-chest stretches, and spinal twists.
  • Aerobic exercises – Aerobic exercises can boost your cardiovascular health and increase oxygen delivery to your tissues. They can also help you lose weight if you are overweight, which can reduce pressure on your spine and the sciatic nerve. Some low-impact aerobic exercises for sciatica include walking, swimming, cycling, and elliptical use.

Listening to Your Body

Sciatica is not a permanent condition and usually resolves on its own within a few weeks or months with proper care and treatment. However, some people may experience chronic or recurrent sciatica that lasts longer than six months or comes back frequently. This may indicate a more serious underlying problem that requires further evaluation and intervention.

The last stages of sciatica are when the pain becomes unbearable or interferes with your daily functioning. You may also experience signs of nerve damage, such as numbness, weakness, or loss of reflexes in your affected leg. If this happens, you should seek immediate medical attention, as you may need surgery to decompress the nerve and prevent permanent disability.

The best way to deal with sciatica is to find a balance between resting and exercising that suits your individual needs and preferences. Resting too much or too little can both be harmful for your recovery and health. Exercising too much or too little can also be detrimental to your condition and wellbeing. Therefore, you should listen to your body and follow the advice of your doctor or physical therapist to find the optimal level of activity for you.

Patients who have had discectomies for herniated discs may experience sciatica if their discs reherniate, which often occurs if there is a large hole in the outer ring of the disc after surgery. Fortunately, there is 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 does not 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 did not 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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