Is there a way I can prevent sciatic nerve problems from happening?

Brian Yee
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Sciatica is an irritation of the sciatic nerve that starts from the low back, through the back of the hip, down the back of the leg and into the foot.

Interesting thing about nerve pain, is that what is really happening is an inflammatory process - similar to a sprained ankle. So in acute sciatic nerve conditions, the nerve is really inflammed - so common things to do is rest, find positions that the sciatic nerve does not get aggravted, and then determine why the nerve is inflammed such as a herniated disc, pirformis syndrome, or other reasons.

Once it becomes more chronic, many people complain of a tightness in the back of the back, hip or leg along with associated nerve symptoms. From there - like an old ankle sprain - after 21 days of acute inflammation - things tend to scar and thicken. So what is happening is that the nerve is still inflammed but it is also less elastic than it used to be. Like a tight bungy cord, the sciatic nerve is now restricted in its motion, and movements such as bending forwards or doing a straight leg hamstring stretch can aggrave the sciatic nerve.

I tell many patients - the need to stretch the feeling of a tight hamstring - may well be a tightened / less elastic underlying sciatic nerve. Many times we see patients flare up trying to do so.

Please consult with a Physical Therapist that understands a technique called 'Neurodynamics' that assesses the physiology and mechanics of the nervous system to determine your ability to exercise and prevent future sciatic nerve problems.

You can reduce your chance for developing sciatic nerve problems by keeping your hip flexors and piriformis flexibile and your gluteal musculature strong. First, foam roll the muscles on the the front of the thigh and hip (hip flexor). Foam rolling is a self-massage technique used to loosen the muscles that are tight and prepare them to be stretched. Hold each tender spot for 30 seconds. Next, statically stretch front of the thigh and hip (hip flexors). Hold each stretch for 30 seconds. Next, strengthen the gluteal musculature by performing ball bridges. Perform 1-3 sets of 10-15 repetitons of this exercise. This program exercises will help improve range of motion and control of the hips and decrease the stress placed on the sciatic nerve.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.