The human body is full of nerves and they travel throughout every part of the body to send signals to and from the brain. Some of them lie relatively close to the spinal column and others may stretch out into various parts of the body, including the toes and the fingers. The sciatic nerve, however, is one that is both close to the spinal column and stretches out into the extremities. It is also, unfortunately, the cause of much pain and suffering.
When the sciatic nerve is pinched or irritated, it can lead to pain in the area of the lower back. Since the sciatic nerve runs through the lower back near the buttocks and down both of the legs, it can also lead to hip pain, knee pain and even pain in the lower leg. This is a problem that as much as 40% of all people are going to suffer from in their lifetime.
The more specific location of the sciatic nerve is deep in the tissues of the buttock. It is located between the piriformis muscle, so if that muscle is inflamed or constricted, it will also lead to inflammation of the sciatic nerve and the problem known as sciatica.
The piriformis muscle is the primary muscle that supports the outward movements of your leg, foot and hip. It is the muscle that connects the spine to the femur at the top of that bone. When the sciatic nerve passes through the piriformis muscle, it can lead to a condition known as piriformis syndrome. This is often associated with pain in the hips, lower back and a difficulty with balance.
A number of other factors may also affect the sciatic nerve along with the piriformis muscle. When is a problem, it is often treated with over-the-counter pain relievers, including NSAIDs, which reduce inflammation. When the pain is chronic and intense, muscle relaxers and prescription painkillers may be given. The individual may also be given an antidepressant medication.
If you are simply treating a problem with sciatica and not treating the problem itself, you’re going to spend the rest of your life on medication. When you do the right piriformis stretches, however, it can go a long way in helping to remove a problem with sciatic pain.
Something that you may not realize is that sciatica is not actually a condition. When an individual suffers from sciatica, they are suffering from pain in the sciatic nerve. Sciatica is actually used to describe the sensation you are experiencing, along with other symptoms, such as numbness, tingling and the loss of bladder control.
Stretching the piriformis muscle is one of the best ways to care for this necessary task. Be sure that you warm-up prior to doing it and stick within your limits. It is also recommended that you talk to a spine specialist before doing any type of activity that could affect your sciatic nerve.
1. Standing Piriformis Stretch
Stand and put the painful leg over the other leg’s knee, lower the hips toward the floor at a 45-degree angle, while bending the knee of the standing leg, lean forward and extend the arms to be parallel to the ground. With a straight spine, hold for 30-60 seconds, and switch legs.
2. Supine Piriformis Stretch
In a lying position with the knees bent upwards, cross the painful leg over the other by bending it upwards toward your chest. Then, with one hand, grab one knee, and the ankle with the other.
Pull gently toward the shoulder in line with the ankle, and hold for half a minute.
3. Outer Hip Piriformis Stretch
While lying on the back, with the affected leg bent upward, place the foot near the back of the knee of the other leg. Then, tuck the foot and twist the leg to the opposite side by making the knee to face or touch the ground.
Put the arm on the knee, and raise the other in the air. Next, start lowering the other arm toward the opposite direction of the knee, and hold for 20 seconds. Then, switch legs and repeat.
4. Buttocks Stretch for the Piriformis Muscle
With the hands and knees on the ground, drag the affected leg’s foot underneath the trunk and twist it toward the opposite side, close to the hip. The knee should point toward the shoulder.
Then, lower the head in order the forehead to touch the ground, and lean the forearms on the ground. With a straight pelvis, stretch the other leg behind you, and slightly push the hips towards the ground. Hold for half a minute and make 3 repetitions.
5. Long Adductor (Groin) Stretch
Sitting on the floor, stretch the legs straight out and far apart. Then, slowly tilt the torso forward toward the ground and put the hands on the floor next to each other. Lean forward in an attempt to touch the elbows to the ground, and hold for 10 to 20 seconds.
6. Hip Extension Exercise
With the hands and knees on the ground, and the hands aligned with the shoulders, tilt the weight off the painful leg and elevate the leg upward toward the ceiling. Slowly lower it, and make 15 repetitions.
7. Side Lying Clam Exercise
You should lay on the side, in order the affected leg to be on top. Then, bend the legs backward to get an L shape, but one foot should remain over the other and the legs should be parallel to each other.
Next, lift the top knee upward, and slowly return it. Make 15 repetitions.
8. Seated Stretch
You should start by sitting on a chair, with the affected leg over the other leg’s knee. Then, bring the chest forward and bend forward a bit, and hold for a few breaths. Then, try to bend a bit more, and remain thus for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.
9. Short Adductor (Inner Thigh) Stretch
Sit on the floor and put the soles of your feet together in front of the pelvis. With the opposite hands, hold the ankles, push downward with the knee in order to touch the ground with them, and hold for half a minute.
Release and in the next 30 seconds, flutter the legs in that position (like a butterfly).
10. Supine Piriformis Side Stretch
Lying on the ground with the legs flat and the back straight, bend the painful leg upward, and put the foot on the outer side of the other leg, close to the knee.
With the other leg, pull the knee of the painful leg across the midline of the body, and hold for 30 seconds. Make 3 repetitions.
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