When your sciatic nerve is inflamed, the experience is painfully memorable. That's because the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back, through the buttock and down the leg, is the widest and longest single nerve in the body. Sciatica is the condition in which this nerve becomes inflamed or pinched, causing sharp, stabbing pain down the entire length of the leg.
Poor posture, back problems, excess weight, herniated disc, tumors, bone fractures and degenerative spinal disease can all play a part in triggering an episode of sciatica. There's good news, though: there are preventative measures you can take to help avoid sciatica.
- Keep your body's weight at an optimum level, as overweight people are more prone to sciatica because of the stress on their joints and bones. Going hand in hand with proper weight is a diet rich in fresh leafy greens and fruits, whole grains, and with limited fats.
- Take up daily meditation to help lower the level of stress in your life. Stress often accumulates in the lower back and adversely affects the body's nerves, of which the sciatic is the largest.
- Do exercises at least 4-5 times weekly to strengthen your core muscles and your back; such exercises can include swimming, walking or pilates. When your back and core muscles are strengthened, there is less chance that a sciatic inflammation will develop. Include exercises in your daily routine to stretch the spine and strengthen the abdominal muscles.
- When going about your daily routine, avoid activities that strain the lower back. Learn how to lift an item properly by bending your legs at the knees. If your job requires repetitive heavy lifting, make sure you are wearing a back brace for proper support.
- First thing in the morning, while lying on your back in bed, raise your knees and squeeze them into your chest. Pull in your stomach muscles and squeeze your rear end, and hold this position for about 5 minutes. Repeat this exercise three or four times. Then, while sitting on the edge of the bed, position your right leg over your left knee and gradually bend forward toward the floor, feeling the stretch in your buttock muscle. Repeat and do this with the opposite leg. This will help keep this part of the body strengthened and flexible.
- Finally, when walking or standing, check to see your reflection in the mirror to see that your posture is tall and not slouched. When your spine is comfortably straight, you eliminate the risk of pinching or pressing on the sciatic nerve.