fbpx
A-real-pain-in-the-but!-Understanding-sciatica

A real pain in the but! Understanding sciatica

You’re about to lift the bar to work on your glutes and hamstrings when it happens – a blistering pain shoots through your buttocks and legs.

Boom! Your training session is over as you limp off for a dose of Ibuprofen to try relieve the symptoms.

READ MORE | A Biokineticist Shares Her Top Tips To Reduce Injury Risk

Nerve irritation

You might have a classic case of sciatic nerve irritation. Sciatic what? you say. Sciatica is pain in your lower back or a shooting pain in the buttock that runs down the back of the leg.

It’s a condition which often plagues people who lift weights as the lower back is one of the areas that are most predisposed to injury, given its involvement in a range of compound moves such as squats and deadlifts.

The condition is the result of irritation of the sciatica nerve through compression, kinking or physical trauma.

Some of the most common causes of sciatica include:

  • Herniation – a disc protrudes, compressing the sciatic nerve.
  • Degeneration – a disc weakens and partially collapses compressing the sciatic nerve.
  • Piriformis – the piriformis muscle (located in the buttocks) compresses the sciatic nerve.
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis – the spinal canal narrows and pushes its content outward which causes a kink in the sciatic nerve.
  • Abnormalities in the spine – such as infection, injury, a tumour, internal bleeding, bone fracture or muscle weakness can lead to sciatica.

Common signs of sciatica

  • A pain in your lower back that gets worse when you walk or bend at the waist. The pain is relieved when you lie down.
  • A pain which usually occurs on the one side of your buttock. The pain worsens when you are seated or in a standing position and feels better when lying down.
  • Numbness and weakness which make it difficult to move your leg or foot.
  • Pain, experienced often as mild tingling, irritation or a burning sensation in a part of your leg or foot.
  • A feeling of pins and needles, also known as paresthesia.

READ MORE | Getting To The Root Of Your Injury Woes

Temporary relief from sciatica

Nothing dampens the will to train hard, faster than injury. You don’t have to become another chronic sciatica sufferer, though.

Follow these tried and tested remedies for sciatic pain:

Ice it

Place a bag of ice on the painful area. After 20 minutes, the pain should diminish. To address the problem further, you can apply a hot pack or take a hot bath after applying the ice pack to improve blood circulation in the area.

Remember that this is only for temporary relief and you still need to address the inflammation and underlying cause by sciatic pain.

Go for a massage

A massage can loosen your muscles and diminish irritation to provide instant relief from sciatica. Chiropractic sessions can also loosen the pressure along the spine.

Use herbs and oils

Herbs and oils that have anti-inflammatory properties that can help to reduce inflammation and therefore relieve some pain.

Low impact active recovery

While most people would recommend bed rest until the pain dissipates, lower impact exercise such as swimming can actually lessen the severity of the condition by reducing the existing pain and alleviating all the pressure placed on the sciatic nerve.

Powering through heavy squats and deadlifts is ill-advised and will definitely lead to further injury and damage. Rather try light exercises to discourage atrophy of the muscles which could only increase or prolong your recovery time.

Further intervention

If sciatica is not alleviated it can snowball into tight hip flexors and hamstrings and weak glutes, which will only increase nerve pain. A good night’s sleep will then definitely be a thing of the past.

If the pain persists then you have no other option than to seek professional medical intervention and a comprehensive neurological examination to address aspects of the central nervous system that might not be working properly.

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

When he's not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He's worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *