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Can Pilates Help Sciatica Pain?

Info Relinque - Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sciatica is a term used to describe a collection of symptoms including pain, tingling, pins and needles, numbness and weakness, that are felt in your lower back, buttock, and various parts of your leg. Symptoms are generally felt only in one leg.

Sciatica is caused by compression or irritation of one or more of the 5 nerve roots that make up your sciatic nerve - a very large nerve that originates in your lower back and runs all the way down to your foot.  It must be made clear that sciatica is not a diagnosis, but rather a description for a set of symptoms that occur with lower back injuries. This a very important point, because the treatment for the different causes of sciatic pain can vary considerably. A successful treatment approach for one cause of sciatic pain may aggravate the symptoms of another cause.

What Causes Sciatica?

True sciatic pain arises from compression or irritation of one or more of the 5 nerve roots that make up your sciatic nerve. Common causes are:

-Disc bulge or disc prolapse
-Vertebral misalignment or enlargement 
-Disc degeneration 
-Spinal stenosis

Sciatic pain occurs most commonly in people between the ages of 30-50 years old, after a lifting event that involves rotation. Bending with rotation stresses the intervertebral disc and may cause the soft inner part of the disc to herniate through the tougher outer section, causing pressure on the sciatic nerve.

Pseudo Sciatic pain is the most common cause for referred pain into your lower back, hips and legs. It causes similar symptoms to sciatic pain. Common causes are:

-Myofascial trigger points
-Lumbar joint sprain
-Piriformis syndrome

Myofascial trigger points occur most commonly as a result of musculoskeletal strains and sprains resulting from poor posture and incorrect lifting techniques. 

Diagnosis of Sciatica

Correct diagnosis of lower back pain that refers into your leg is essential, as simple myofascial trigger points can present similarly to the early stages of a disc bulge. This is a very important point, because if a disc bulge is treated as a benign joint sprain it may have serious and lasting consequences. 

If a case history and physical examination reveals radiating pain into the leg, with any neurological involvement, sciatic can be suspected. Further imaging with a CT scan or MRI is then indicated to determine the level and extent of the injury.

Pilates for Relief of Sciatica

Around 90% of cases of sciatic pain that occurs as a result of a disc bulge or herniation resolve with no surgical intervention. Correct advice and treatment in the early stages of any lower back injury is vital to establish an appropriate plan for your recovery.

The main focus of Pilates is to:

1) Increase your core strength. 
2) Increase flexibility in your spine and rib cage. 
3) Improve posture. 

By increasing the strength in your core, and the flexibility in your spine with pilates exercises, your body is able to return to a more balanced resting state. The aim of pilates is to strengthens the weak muscles, and loosen the tight ones. As your posture improves, pressure is taken away from your stressed and overworked lumbar spine, and placed onto your strong postural core muscles. This is the way your body was designed to work, this is the way to return your body back to balance. 

If you have any questions about sciatic pain, or pilates, please talk to one of the instructors at Relinque Sports & Spinal Group pilates studio in Ivanhoe.

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