by Hayley Chemski-Horwat, MSN, CNRA
Struggle with a nagging pain in your lower back, backside, or your leg? Fight with numbness or tingling or loss of strength? Does this pain affect your daily living? Many cases of back/leg pain are associated with the sciatic nerve which emerges from the lower back and runs the length of each leg. In my professional experience, this pain is noted as “Sciatica” or pain created by a herniated disk or a bone spur compressing a part of the nerve. This causes inflammation, pain and often numbness in an affected leg.
The sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in the body and is com-posed of individual nerve roots that start by branching out from the spine in the lower back at lumbar (near lumbar vertebra #3). The nerve then runs the length of each leg, specifically to the buttock, thigh, calf, foot, and toes. Symptoms emerge as pain, numbness, tingling and in severe cases loss of bladder and bowel continence as well as leg weakness. Sciatic pain is characterized as a mild ache to a sharp, burning sensation, or even a jolt like an electric shock.
Risk factors for sciatica include advanced age, herniated disks and bone spurs, prolonged sitting or standing, obesity, occupations requiring heavy-load lifts, diabetes (which affects nerve health), and weak trunk muscles.
Although sciatic pain can be quite debilitating, many cases can be treated with conservative at-home treatments, such as over the counter medications, ice/heat application, stretching, stress relief, and abdominal strengthening.
If conservative measures such as anti-inflammatory drugs (i.e. Tylenol, aspirin, Celebrex, ibuprofen, Motrin), ice and heat application, and stretching fail one should attempt to strengthen the CORE muscles of the abdomen. Strengthening these muscles promotes spinal alignment and less compression amongst nerve roots. Specifically muscles known as the extensors (back and glutes), the hip flexors (lower abdominal and iliopsoas), as well as the obliques (abdominal and paraspinal) can improve CORE strength.
Building Bodeez Fitness and Wellness Center created a CORE strengthening group fitness program years ago to combat this common condition. Instructors walk clients through hour-long formats that include functional training exercises that overload the muscle groups listed above. Moreover, regular supervised exercise decreases stress levels (which correlates to nerve pain) and decreases one’s risk for obesity and diabetes which limits risk of sciatica.
If mild/moderate pain persists longer than 3-4 weeks despite conservative measures and affects daily living your primary care physician should be contacted. Further evaluation and non-invasive tests may be used to diagnose the crippling pain and pro-mote a solution (steroid use or surgical intervention).
Don’t let a pain in your back cripple your healthy lifestyle.
• “Sciatica.” Mayo Clinic. Retrieved online at www.mayoclinic.org, 2014.
• “Sciatica and Back pain.” Spine Health; Trusted Information for Back Pain Relief. Retrieved online at www.spine-health.com, 2014.
• “Sciatica.” MedLine Plus. Retrieved online at www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/sciatica.html, 2014.
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Hayley is a Certified Fitness Trainer and the co-owner of Building Bodeez Fitness Center, located at 154 Pandora Rd in Derry, PA, as well as a full-time Nurse Anesthetist with the University of Pittsburgh Physicians, currently based at St. Margaret’s Hospital in Fox Chapel, PA. Hayley offers a wealth of fitness and health knowledge, serving as the Group Fitness Coordinator and Wellness Programs Director at Building Bodeez. She has developed several programs at Building Bodeez including initiation of the first ZUMBA classes in the area, as well as AerobaDANCE and Yogilates (her unique creations), and the wildly successful Building Better Bodeez weight loss intensive program.
Building Bodeez is located at 154 Pandora Road in Derry Township. 724-739-0105. www.building bodeez.net.