One of the most common questions we hear, which we have written about previously is “How Long Will Sciatica Last?”. Recovering from sciatica seems like a near impossible task when it first strikes, and pain is at its most acute. Just moving left or right or sitting or standing is draining. The good news is the for most people the symptoms improve drastically after a few weeks as discussed in this short review in Harvard Health Publishing. Once the pain reduces people are able to get into the work required to recover and more importantly minimise the risk of return.
Quite often, after treating a patient for back pain and sciatica, we are asked either “Can I still do ………?” or “What can I do to improve my back?
Answers vary depending on the nature of the back injury, the severity and acuteness, the activity they want to pursue, and the status of their recovery. However, we believe that being active is the speediest way to recovering from sciatica and for most injured backs.
So, here are some tried and tested do’s for recovering from sciatica.
The Do’s for Recovering from Sciatica
Walking – As we have said previously, walking is good, but try to avoid difficult terrain and walking down steep hills or stairways. The key here is plan your route.
Low impact activities – You might want to consider aqua aerobics, Tai Chi, yoga or Pilates. They can be relaxing and help to improve balance. When you improve balance, you improve the body’s strength from the inside out. If you do join a class make sure that the teacher is fully aware of the problem you are recovering from, and the golden rule is if it causes pain don’t ignore it.
Stretching – A regular stretching routine can be really helpful. The key here is regular. Little and often is also great for turning it into a regular habit. Start with very simple stretches. Yoga is an excellent activity to undertake but be careful certain stretches while recovering may trigger symptoms. The sphinx, the cobra and greeting the dawn – may trigger sciatica symptoms in some individuals. It is a little trial and error because we are all individuals and have slightly different problems.
Strengthening – Gentle strengthening exercises are vital for prevention in the future and can work wanders. Using just your body weight or very light weights can do much more than you think.
In summary, be as active as you can be with your recovery but remember to take it easy and be kind to yourself. Where pain is concerned as very wise person once said, “You can knock at the door, but don’t push it open”. As you get further down the line of recovery break yourself gently back into the activities you enjoy.
The Don’ts for Recovering from Sciatica
This next section is for those of us who like to be really active and even throw ourselves around a little! As well as being painful sciatica can be really frustrating when it holds us back and stops us doing what we love to do. There are so many different activities people do we could not possibly cover them all so, when starting along the road to recovery think about kinds of movement rather than specific activities. There are certain things where it is sensible to avoid or at a minimum approach with caution. This is not forever it is for now. Patience is a virtue
High Impact – Stay away or approach with caution activities that make you have to stop suddenly, change direction quickly or involve being jolted. Things like mountain biking, racquet sports and martial arts.
High Power – Fast and powerful movements. The keen golfer is apt to put themselves at risk for the sport they love but returning too early can be false economy. The action of driving and swinging a golf club puts a lot of strain on the lower back. Athletics, gymnastics, aerobics or any sport that requires vigorous or fast movements.
Lifting – Moving heavy weights/objects or strength activities. The key here is light loads. If you like to go to the gym keep going but find other activities to do that do not require heavy lifting. Say no to heavy objects while training, gardening, doing DIY, etc.
Static positions – Where the back is held in one position for long periods such as in cycling. Shorter periods while in a more comfortable upright position while you recover could be useful.
Good luck and a speedy recovery to you all.