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Recovering from Sciatica

Quite often, after treating a patient for back pain, I will be asked either “Can I still do ………?” or “What can I do to improve my back?

My 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, I believe that being active is the speedier way to recovery for most injured backs.

Things that I tell my patients to avoid when in the acute phase and starting along the road to recovery are any activities that include the following:-

  • Lots of impact (Even if that means avoiding walking down steep inclines or stairways). So no to running, mountain biking, racquet sports and martial arts.
  • High energy dynamic movements. So no to golf (the twisting when you drive off puts a lot of strain on the lower back) athletics, gymnastics, aerobics, etc.
  • Lifting or moving heavy weights/objects or strength activities. So no to weight-lifting or training, shot-putting, gardening, do it yourself, etc.
  • Static positions, where the back is held in one position for long periods such as in cycling and motor sports.

As I have previously said, walking is good, so long as you avoid difficult terrain and walking down steep hills or stairways, so plan your route.

You might want to consider aqua aerobics, Tai Chi, yoga or pilates. 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 do it!

I myself do a regular stretching routine and a few strengthening exercises, and I have learnt to avoid certain stretches. For me, certain yoga stretches – the sphinx, the cobra and greeting the dawn – are a definite no, as they can trigger my sciatic pain. But there are other stretches that I find do help. It is a little trial and error because each of us has a slightly different problem. So I suggest that you start with very simple stretches and gentle strengthening exercises, and take up an activity that avoids those listed above. As you get further down the line of recovery ease yourself gently back into the more vigorous activities you enjoy.

Good luck and a speedy recovery to you all.

Regards, Ian

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