Your sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body and runs from the base of your spine (pelvis) through your buttocks and all the way down both legs, ending in your feet. Sciatica is the general term for pain caused by compression or irritation of your sciatic nerve. This can range from feeling uncomfortable to being completely debilitating for the sufferer.
Your spine is made up of a series of vertebrae with disks in between. Most cases of sciatica are caused by a damaged (herniated or slipped) disk. This can change the shape of the disk, meaning it begins to press on the sciatic nerve. This compression sends pain through the nerve with the most painful areas usually being the buttock and thigh, although it can also be painful in the lower back and below the knee. Sciatica can also be caused by a spinal injury, growth within the spine or narrowing of nerve passages in the spine, although these are less common.
If you have a client who suffers with sciatica, it is important to work within their limitations for that day. They may feel the pain some days is better than others. Most sciatica will pass within 6-8 weeks without medical treatment, although clients may be using painkillers and heat/ice packs which will ease the symptoms. Movement helps as it allows the disks to remain mobile, so gentle exercise and stretching is fantastic for sciatica sufferers.
We can’t guarantee you could completely prevent your clients from suffering with sciatica, but you can definitely decrease their chances of suffering with a few simple tips:
Clients suffering with sciatica may have been given daily stretch exercises by their physiotherapist. These take into account where the sciatic nerve is and how to stretch it and keep mobile. Stretches should be done gently once a day, and will include:
Sciatica can be ongoing and painful. If you have the opportunity to explain to your clients how important posture is to prevent this, please educate them. This is how we make a difference.
You can gain more knowledge to help you deliver this confidently in our Pilates for Common Orthopaedic Conditions course.
Written by Heather Oakes