As an athlete, pain in the legs or lower back is a very common complaint. Intense workouts can often strain the muscles in your leg or cause undue stress to the spine in the lower back. Improper lifting, bending, or twisting can also stress the spine and the lower back. This increases the likelihood of developing a herniated disc in the lower back which is a leading cause of sciatica.
A herniated disc in the lower back can compress the sciatic nerve or nerve roots causing pain in the lower back and radiating pain down the back of your legs, typically occurring on one side of the body. This is known as sciatica.
Running and other athletic activities can strain the piriformis muscles which is the muscle located in the buttock area. The strained piriformis muscles can also compress the sciatic nerve causing sciatica.
If you are suffering from chronic sciatica or have developed a recent onset of acute sciatica, as an athlete some basic at-home care and management of sciatica may reduce the pain and help you stay active.
Hot and cold therapy
Hot and cold therapies are effective in reducing inflammation, relaxing muscles, and relieving your sciatica.
Cold compress in the form of ice or gel packs applied to the lower back over the pelvic area can reduce swelling and inflammation of the sciatic nerve by reducing the flow of blood in this area.
Warm compresses can help relax your strained muscles and increase blood flow to encourage healing of strained muscles thereby increasing flexibility and reducing compression on the sciatic nerve.
Choose proper footwear
Choosing the right footwear provides proper cushioning and support for your feet reduces the stress on the joints, muscles, and lower spine. Custom footwear that fits your feet perfectly and provides the right arch support as well as cushioning can reduce stress and strain on the lower back and can help reduce irritation and compression of your sciatic nerve. The right footwear can also reduce the likelihood of developing several joints and other stress-related injuries to your legs and the lower back.
Shorten your stride
Running with long strides causes undue stress on the body and increases the risk of irritating your sciatic nerve. Shortening your stride can help reduce undue stress and strain to the lower back and the leg muscles thereby reducing the chance of irritating your sciatic nerve.
Change the running surface
If you prefer running outside and have been using sidewalks or other hard surfaces, a simple change to softer surfaces can reduce the stress on the lower back and spine and prevent further irritation of the sciatic nerve.
At-home sciatica exercises
Low impact at-home exercises and stretches are effective in stretching your hamstrings and relaxing the muscles that can relieve stress and compression of the sciatic nerve and help you manage your sciatica pain at home. Exercises including the pelvic tilt, knee to chest stretch, hamstring stretch, and glue stretch are some common exercises that can help manage your sciatica pain.
However, it is important to consult your chiropractor before starting any exercises as depending on the root cause of your sciatica, some exercise may worsen your sciatica.
While at-home management of sciatica can help relieve pain and improve mobility, it is important to consult a medical professional if your sciatica is persistent and your symptoms last more than three months. Contact the team at Cianci Chiropractic today!