Sciatic nerve pain from a disc herniation can be debilitating in some cases! You want to return to being able to perform your normal daily activities but you either do too much or not enough and you’re not seeing any change. Whats the answer?
Apply the 3R Method to ensure that all areas are being addressed!
What is happening with my back and why do I have so much pain?
When the tissues protecting the posterior aspect of your lumbar vertebra have become compromised, the substance inside your disc might push out a bit and become too close to the nerve. That increased pressure against the nerve causes you to feel pain. This pain might refer just to your buttocks or might refer right down to your foot.
How does this happen?
Aside from something traumatic happening such as a fall or an accident, it is generally they way we are holding and moving our bodies. This is good news because it means that we can make some changes.
What Should I do?
A common mistake people make is to only stretch. Their muscles feel tight and they think that if they stretch them out, they will feel better. Though this does happen to a certain extent, long lasting change will not occur. Having tight muscles is not the reason why someone has a disk herniation. Its more of a positional issue (posture), with the deep layer of muscles that are supposed to support us, not working. When this happens, the larger, more surface muscles work too much and end up creating too much tone. This makes someone feel constantly tight. Stretching these muscles can feel good, but why would the body change overall when there has been no support given to the deeper muscles that need to start working? The stiffness that has been reduced with a stretch will return, time after time.
Try a different approach … The 3R Method Approach
Because someone who has a disk problem tends to stay out of certain postures, such as bending forward as much, certain muscles are more prone to tightening than others. Stretching these tight muscles gives more freedom of movement to the body. The picture below is an opener for the front of the body, bringing the back and the hips into a neutral position and opening up the chest. Take big breaths as you circle your arms around.
There is instability around a lumbar segment when the disk has encroached on a nerve. The disk complex will be slightly lower in height than it was before because the disk is not filling it quite as much as it was. This makes the ligaments a little less taut causing allowing for less support to this area. The deep, stabilizing back muscles are now more important than ever as they need to be working really well to make up for the lack of support in the low back. Learning how to activate the transversus abdominis will help give support to the lower back. Notice how in picture 2, the belly has been pulled up and in. Inhale to allow your belly to move down towards the floor and exhale to pull your lower belly upwards, without moving your spine.
Changing the posture of the body is important as this is a key component for why a disk has seeped out of its supportive area. Understanding how to find your ‘good’ posture in sitting and standing, ensuring you are weight bearing evenly between each side of your body as often as possible and moving from a stable base are all things that can be learned and practiced throughout the day. When sitting, make sure you are right over top of your sit bones. The picture on the right shows a slouchy posture where the upper body is now sitting behind the sit bones.