Informational Articles

4 Workout Mistakes That Aggravate Your Sciatica

Workout Mistakes That Aggravate Sciatica

JULIE RICEVUTO

Most of us have had the odd back pain, but only those who suffer from sciatica know the feeling of crippling agony radiating down the lower back—sometimes into the hips, butt, and legs. One of the frustrations with sciatica is that it can be hard to pinpoint its root cause. “Sciatic pain can be caused by a bulging disk in the spine, a narrowed spinal canal pinching the nerve, or by the piriformis muscle in the buttock being too tight around the sciatic nerve,” explains NYC-based sports medicine physician, Jordan Metzl, MD. One thing we do know: Certain types of exercises can make the pain worse. If you’re prone to sciatic nerve pain, here’s what not to do at the gym to avoid aggravating this chronic symptom.

Mistake #1: Hinging forward 
“Things like sit-ups, crunches, or anything where you’re folding your spine forward will put pressure on the nerve and cause additional pain,” Metzl says. Try back-friendly moves like swimming laps around a pool or weight training that concentrates on your arms and legs.

Mistake #2: Neglecting your core 

You want to avoid crunches and sit-ups, but it’s still vital to strengthen your core muscles to help stabilize the area and prevent flare-ups. “Target your core, both the front and back,” Metzl says. “Plank positions will optimally strengthen your midsection.” If you’re a newbie, start by holding a plank for 30 seconds, and eventually work your way up to a full minute. Placing your feet wider apart will make the plank easier.

Mistake #3: Skipping hip and butt stretches

Pigeon pose

PHOTOGRAPH BY WAVEBREAKMEDIA/SHUTTERSTOCK

If the pain is closer to your butt, it’s likely that the piriformis muscle is very tight and pinching the nerve. “Try stretches that target your butt and hips, like the pigeon pose and lizard pose in yoga,” Metzl says. “This will open up the muscles surrounding the nerve, releasing the pressure that causes pain.”

Mistake #4: Running wrong 
Yes, cardio is great for heart health and weight loss, but it can lead to lower back pain if done incorrectly. “Things that induce compressions within your back, like landing on a hard surface repeatedly, will cause these things to worsen,” Metzl says. If you’re still bent on running, Metzl suggests shortening your stride a bit to lessen “bounce,” which lightens the impact on your back. Also, try running on surfaces more forgiving than pavement—like grass or your local track, which is likely made of a soft synthetic material—to make the impact less extreme.

One thought on “4 Workout Mistakes That Aggravate Your Sciatica

  1. This is so true! I work in a physical therapy clinic and this is seen all the time! No one stretches properly or they think their core muscles are their superficial abdominal muscles and do 10000 crunches which just irritates the sciatic nerve even more! Awesome post!

    Liked by 1 person

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