Monday, October 31st, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

The sciatic nerve runs from the back, down through the buttocks, on down the leg, and to the foot. If it is pressed or irritated, this large nerve can become inflamed, producing the painful condition known as sciatica.

There are a number of measures that may help to relieve the pain of sciatica, according to Paul Donohue, MD, writing recently in his column "To Your Good Health" published by the News-Journal of Daytona Beach, Florida. He advises that over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil, Aleve or Motrin may help reduce discomfort. For some persons, applying ice to the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes, three times daily, helps to dull the pain. For others, warmth works better (for example, a heating pad or hot compress). Dr. Donohue also offers the following stretching routine, which may take pressure off the nerve:

  • Begin by sitting on a sturdy chair (one without arms would be best) with both feet flat on the floor. Knees should be about shoulder width apart.
  • Sitting tall, gently turn your trunk slightly toward the left.
  • Dangle your right arm down between your knees and your left arm down on the outside of the left leg.
  • Try to keep your back long and straight while bending from your hips down toward the floor as far as possible.
  • Hold this stretch for five seconds.
  • Slowly rise to an upright seated position.
  • Reversing the entire process, repeat toward the opposite side.

If you will slide your dangling arms lightly along the sides of your upper legs during the bending and rising phases of the exercise, you can provide some manual support for your back. Take note of how you feel while performing this stretching activity. If it hurts, stop. If it is well tolerated, perform five bends toward each side, three times per day. If your sciatica pain persists after trying the self-help ideas given above, consult your personal physician who may determine that you need physical therapy.


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