Health Topics

Healthy Living

February 2012
Sciatica Weighty nerve, Stony legs
Dr Vijay K Krishna
Sciatica is a symptom but not a medical condition. Sciatica represents leg pain with or without tingling sensation and numbness sometimes. The radiating sensation starts from buttocks and may end at the

Common causes
  • Herniated discs
  • Degenerative disc diseases
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • SI joint dysfunction
  • Pregnancy
  • Lower back muscle strain
  • Overweight
  • Any infection
Cold weather and sciatica
The physiological effect of cold is to control or reduce blood flow and decrease tissue extensibility. In turn, it tightens the muscles, which further compresses the underlying nerve or exerts pressure on the sciatic nerve. The result is pain and tingling sensation passing down through the leg.

Instant relief
The basic treatment option for any type of sciatica would be applying hot pack that would increase the blood flow to the area and help loosening the muscles. (Heat can reach the deeper areas whilst ice reaches superficial tissues.) This will temporarily bring down the pain. Instant relief of the pain can also be achieved by taking NSAIDS (Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs). But a regular physical therapy with heat therapy would result in strengthening and decreasing pain.

Treatment options
  • Hot packs for about 3-4 minutes every 2 hours (Remember: back muscles are deeper)
  • Strengthening exercises – core muscle strengthening/stabilization and paraspinal muscles
  • Stretching the major muscles – hamstrings, piriformis, quadriceps
Common exercises for sciatic pain

Quadricep stretch
  • Starting position – standing
  • Bend the leg and get it towards the lower back
  • Feel the stretch in front of the thigh
  • Hold for 8-10 seconds and repeat with crossing the other leg
Cat and camel exercises
  • Starting position – quadripod position
  • Move the lower up and down
  • Repeat for three sets and 12 reps each
Abdominal crunches – isometrics:
  • Starting position – supine position, with knees bent, feet on the ground
  • Lift your neck and upper back (till upper scapular region) and hold the position
  • Feel the contraction in your abdominal muscles
  • Hold for 5-6 seconds and repeat for three sets and 12 reps each
Hamstring stretch
  • Starting position – standing
  • Cross the legs and touch the feet with middle finger
  • Feel the stretch on the back of your thigh
  • Hold for 8-10 seconds and repeat by crossing the other leg
Piriformis stretch
  • Starting position - Lie on your back
  • Cross the knees and bring them towards chest. Feel the stretch in your opposite glutes/buttock muscle
  • Hold for 8-10 seconds and repeat with crossing the other leg
Note:Please contact a physiotherapist for an exercise regime appropriate for your condition
  • The information on this site does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for medical care provided by a physician.
  • See additional information.