If you've ever suffered from chronic pain of any kind, you know how debilitating and distracting it can be. It becomes your focus, it consumes you – to the exclusion of almost everything else.
Back pain and nerve pain are particularly tricky. They can come from a traumatic injury – or from a sneeze. You could work out too hard and strain a muscle, putting pressure on your back, or get out of the car incorrectly and twist a nerve in the wrong way. And once injured, nerves and the back can be difficult to diagnose and even harder to treat. If your back and the nerves in your back are injured, you may find yourself restricting your activities, which can lead to poor eating habits, which can lead to a whole range of unhealthy habits and lifestyle choices.
When it comes to specific nerves that affect the back, the sciatic nerve is one that people may have heard of. That's because it's a big nerve that runs from your lower back, down your buttocks and up your leg. Like most nerve damage, there are many ways that the sciatic nerve can become irritated, from arthritis to a slipped disc to a fall or other injury. This injury can in turn lead to sciatica, a pain that can be just a nuisance or become a severe, constant burning sensation.
If you or a loved one has sciatica, you may know that there are some things that can make the pain worse. Sitting for a long time can cause a particularly brutal attack of sciatica – but so can walking for a long time. Nights can be bad – but laughing may not help.
It sounds insurmountable, and for some people it feels that way. Medicine offers many options, from spinal cord stimulation to nerve root blocks. But one of the simplest and most accessible options for people with sciatica is simply to incorporate some stretching into their fitness or daily routine. These stretches don't require anything more than a soft surface and perhaps access to a staircase. Half of them are performed on the back, which removes balance issues as an obstacle. One is done sitting down, making it a good choice for people with mobility issues. All of them – just four in total – can be done in minutes, several times a day, which means you're giving your sciatic nerve the attention it needs, which can help relieve pressure and pain. In fact, you can probably do the stretches designed to relieve sciatica in your normal clothes – you won't break a sweat and all you need is a little freedom of movement.
So what are the stretches you can do at home for sciatica, and how do you do them? This graphic will walk you through specific instructions that you can put into practice – today.