Mention that you have sciatica in a crowd of friends and every other person will have the answer to cure your pain. This is a testament to the frequency of these symptoms as well as to the many treatments there are to make you feel better.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a symptom, not the problem itself. If you have lower back/buttock and leg pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in your leg you may be experiencing the wrath of an unhappy sciatic nerve.
The sciatic nerve is comprised of nerves that originate in the lower spine and travel down through the sacrum and then bundle together to make the longest nerve in the human body. There are two sciatic nerves – one for each leg.
The symptoms of sciatica include leg pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness that travels from the lower back and buttock down the leg. Those symptoms tell you that the sciatic nerve is unhappy at some point along its pathway.
Understanding The Sciatic Nerve Pathway
The sciatic nerve is really a bundle of nerves. As the nerves of the lower spine exit the spinal column and travel through the sacrum, they bundle together and form the thick sciatic nerve. When the sciatic nerve leaves the sacrum, it travels down through the deep buttock and thigh. When it reaches the back of the knee it splits into two nerves, the Tibial Nerve and the Common Fibular Nerve.
The nerves that comprise the sciatic nerve are responsible for muscle function in the back of the thigh, in the lower leg, and some muscles in the foot. The sciatic nerve is also responsible for the ability to feel the skin on your lateral leg, your heel, and the top and bottom of your foot.
Due to the shear length of the sciatic nerve and the variety of structures it encounters in its journey, the true source of the entrapment can be from several, very different problems. Disc herniation, spinal stenosis, piriformis syndrome, and even a hamstring injury can all result in the same sciatica symptoms.
Yoga For Sciatica Relief
Can yoga help your sciatica? Absolutely.
Unfortunately there isn’t just one magic pose to cure your sciatica pain. It is crucial that a correct diagnosis is made in order to choose the most appropriate yoga practice. Sciatica caused from a disc herniation is treated very differently than that caused by spinal stenosis. One practice would center on back bending poses and the other around forward bending poses. If the sciatica is from a tight and restricted piriformis, hip stretching such as half pigeon and figure four stretch would be indicated. And in some cases, such as with pelvic instability, stretching is actually contraindicated and can make your symptoms worse.
But, the common denominator for all sciatic symptoms, and something that yoga specializes in addressing, is postural imbalance. Improved postural alignment, increased lower back and pelvic stability, and normalized breathing patterns are all benefits of yoga that can help address the underlying cause of sciatica.
Watch this 15-minute yoga flow which features various yoga moves for sciatica relief: