Sciatica goes way back in history. Our ancestors have been trying to get rid of it ever since the 5th century BCE. For example, hot coals and leeches were used in ancient Roman times, and injections were used in the 20th century. In other words, many have tried to rid themselves of the sciatica pain using all sorts of natural and modern treatments, which rarely (if ever) get the job done.
Luckily, there are ways to overcome the sciatica pain using yoga techniques. But before we reveal them to you, let us first take a closer look at sciatica.
But before we reveal them to you, let us first take a closer look at sciatica.
What is Sciatica and What Are the Symptoms?
Basically, it is pain and tenderness which can occur anywhere along one’s sciatic nerve (hence the name). Each leg has a sciatic nerve, which means most people have two. Did you know that these are our body’s longest nerves?
And since the sciatica passes through one’s gluteus maximus and thigh area, any pain, burning or tingling sensations in one’s thighs are usually a sign of sciatica. But there are many other symptoms, such as:
- Pain in one’s calf, buttock, lower back, thigh. Basically, anywhere along the pathway of the sciatic nerve.
- Numbness and fatigue in one’s legs or feet.
- A burning, tingling, electric sensation similar to pins-and-needles and known as paresthesia.
- Weakness in one’s knees which can cause them to buckle after one stands up.
- A condition where one finds it hard to flex one’s ankles enough in order to walk on their heels, called ‘foot drop’.
- Reflex reduction in one’s knee and Achilles tendon.
Moreover, sciatica most often occurs when one is running, bending over, sitting (particularly if driving) and during several passive and active daily movements.
The causes for sciatica can be many and varied. So, it’s always a good idea to seek medical help first and foremost, and do some testing to see what exactly is causing your sciatica.
How to Recognize Piriformis Syndrome
The Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine published a study back in 2005 where they stated that nearly 70% of all those who suffer from sciatica pain, are experiencing problems caused by the piriformis muscle. But how can you be sure whether or not you belong to this group?
Here are some signals:
- Having a hard time walking on your toes or heels.
- Stiffness in your legs
- Burning in the back of your thigh
- Pain and a tingling sensation at the back of your thigh while in a sitting position. This pain might be relieved when you stand up, but a numbness in your toes is bound to follow.
- Pain in one’s buttocks after sitting for long periods or exercising too much. Other symptoms might include tingling, burning, numbness or weakness. And while there may be some pain while being active, it is usually much worse after you sit down.
- Pins-and-needles accompanied by sciatica pain down the outer side of your calf, which may reach to the web space of your fourth and little toes.
How Yoga Can Help you with Sciatica Pain
If your sciatica pain is caused by, say, a bulging or herniated disk, practicing yoga and progressing from gentle, easy poses and moving on to foundational basic asanas will help naturally strengthen, lengthen and align your lower back.
And remember, a herniated disk does not always have to require surgical procedures. Yoga has been proven to help reduce any symptoms and keep them under control. In some cases, it can even cause a reduction in the herniation itself.
But it’s crucial that you consult with your doctor on just how severe the herniation is in your case. In particularly severe cases, surgery may be needed after all. As for the rest, yoga is here to relieve any pains and bothers you have.
For instance, if a tight piriformis (which performs pressure on your nerve) happens to be the cause of your sciatica, then your logical step is to stretch the muscle without hurting it.
You can do so using gentle but progressive movements. Read on below to find out about the 7 yoga poses for soothing any sciatica pain.
This is basically a halfway spinal twist; a piriformis stretches which encourages it to lengthen and release. The intensity of this pose progresses as you approach its fullness. Just make sure not to stretch too forcibly as that can have an adverse effect, instead of a desired beneficial one.
You should adjust the pose so that you only feel minimal levels of discomfort. The instructions below are for stretching your left hip. After you’re done, make sure to do the same with your right one.
1. Spinal Twist Prep
Your starting position should be a sitting one, knees bent and feet in front of your body. This should be on the corner of a folded blanket on the floor.
Now just place the right foot under the left knee. It should be around the outer side of the left hip. The idea is that the right knee points forward. For stretching your hip in a mild manner, the left foot should be placed to the inner side of the right knee.
That way it should be aligned with the left hip. And if you want to stretch in a stronger manner, then the left foot should be placed on the outer side of the right knee.
The left sitting bone should be lighter on the ground than the other. Make sure to sit on the left bone in order to create a balance between the hips. This is the start of your stretching. You can hold onto the left knee for steadying yourself.
Once you’ve found your balance, simply inhale and lengthen yourself in an upward motion through the spine. If this stretch appears too intense or if any sciatica pain radiates down the leg, this just means you need to place more padding under the hips until you personally feel that performing this stretch is tolerable.
You should remain in this yoga pose from 20 seconds up to a few minutes. Once you’re done, repeat the whole thing again with your other side this time. It’s best to perform 2-4 sets at one time.
Over time, once your piriformis muscles stretch out, you can gradually lower the height of the blanket until you are fully sitting on the floor.
2. Seated Twist
In ardha matsyendrasana’s full version, one’s upper body is supposed to turn toward their upright knee. In order to help your body, do this, place the left hand on the ground behind you. Continue holding the left knee using the right hand.
Try to maintain the natural curve of the lower back. Now inhale, thus lengthening, lifting and expanding. Then exhale, thus twisting without the rounding of your back.
While twisting, use the hand on the left knee to gently hug or draw the knee toward your chest. Proceed by relaxing your inner groin and thigh, allowing it to naturally drop downward to the sitting bone.
And while drawing the knee towards the chest with (at least mild) resistance, the thigh bone should release laterally out at your hip, which in turn presses against your piriformis and encourages it to release.
The twist should deepen with you drawing the knee into the elbow, or taking the upper arm to the outer side of the knee. This yoga pose gets more active when you press the knee against your arm in order to achieve a deeper twist.
But be careful: if you happen to be suffering from piriformis syndrome, the last thing you want to do is tighten your muscles further. So, take care not to go into this twist too deeply.