Have you heard of sciatica? A lot of people
complain about nerve pain down the back of their leg. Usually the cause is within
the lower back or pelvis. I’m going to give you 2 stretches today for the sciatic nerve. It
is the largest nerve in the body. It runs down the back of the leg and splits into two behind
the knee. It runs the whole way to the foot. It can cause shooting pain, numbness, tingling,
dead leg feeling or the feeling that your leg is falling asleep. The first exercise is this. It is called flossing.
We are going to sit up nice and straight here. What you are going to do is straighten
the affected leg or the leg with pain. Stretch that leg out and look up at the same
time. As you are doing this, if you are doing it right and you are doing it on the
painful leg, it could actually make the symptoms travel down your leg. That is ok.
You are putting a stretch on the nerve. We are going to hold that 5 seconds. Then bend
your knee and look down. 5 second hold here. 5 second hold, 10 times each way. This
is called flossing. The next exercise is called a slump stretch.
Same idea here, as you are doing this exercise, you could experience increased symptoms
down the leg and that is ok. Outside of the flossing or this exercise,
no other exercise should increase the pain travelling down the leg. Everything else should
actually decrease the pain in the leg and you will experience more pain in your
lower back. What we do is this: Feet against the wall, knees straight, fingers interlocked
behind the head. Then you are going to slump forward. So bring your elbows in. There
you go. This should cause pretty sharp symptoms down the back of your leg. It is
called the slump stretch and it is ok to feel increased pain down the back of the leg. We
hold this for 30 seconds and we do 3 of them in the clinic. Now if that is too difficult,
if that is too advanced, here is what you can do: Place your arms behind you and sit
up and arch your back. What you want to try to do is if that is too much for you,
if that is too intense, you can place your arms behind your back and simply arch your back.
Rock your pelvis forward. That will do the same exact thing but it is a little less intense
than interlocking your fingers behind your neck and leaning forward. This is a little
more basic. So you can modify. The same idea though 30 seconds, 3 times. If you can
at least get yourself to sit up straight with the legs straight, feet flat against the wall,
you are in good shape. The third exercise you should do for sciatica
or symptoms running down your leg is this: Realize that with symptoms travelling down
your leg, often there isnt a problem within the leg. The problem is within the lower back
or the pelvis. The sciatic nerve, the nerve roots where it originates is in your lower
back. If you are getting pressure on the nerve roots there either from disc degeneration,
from a herniated disc or, as is also common, a problem within the pelvis and the sacroiliac
joint. If you have a problem there that is putting increased pressure on the nerve, that
is what creates the symptoms in your leg. You can think about it like this: if you have
a long garden hose and there is water running through it and you pinch one end,
obviously at the other end you are going to have less water flow. Same idea in your body.
If you pinch that sciatic nerve, that is what creates the symptoms. That is what changes
what you are feeling down your leg. The solution isn’t to continually address
the problems in your leg. Or to put heat on your leg or ice on your leg. The solution is to
relieve the pressure on the other end of the garden hose or the other end of the sciatic
nerve. So what you need to do is figure out what is causing the symptoms down your leg.
A good Physical Therapist can help you do that and they can decipher through testing
whether it is coming from arthritis or disc degeneration or stenosis in your back, a herniated
disc or a problem in your pelvis. So the third exercise that you should be doing
is the 3 exercises that are addressing the cause of your sciatic nerve pain.