Sciatica is a prevalent health condition that affects 5-10% of individuals with lower back pain, causing discomfort, numbness, and tingling sensations in the hips, lower back, and legs. Various factors, such as a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, or pregnancy, can contribute to this condition. However, low-impact exercises like walking can aid in relieving sciatic pain.
But the question arises: is walking good for sciatica?
The answer is a resounding yes, as walking is a gentle exercise that promotes blood flow, loosens tight muscles, and stimulates the release of endorphins, which act as natural pain relievers. However, it’s important to keep in mind that not all forms of walking are suitable for individuals with sciatica. For example, walking on uneven or hilly terrain may exacerbate the symptoms. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand the correct techniques and precautions to take while walking with sciatica.
In this article, we’ll explore whether walking is suitable for sciatica and provide advice on how to walk safely and effectively with sciatica.
Does Walking Help Sciatica?
Yes, walking can prove an effective remedy to treat sciatic pain, but only when the sufferer walks properly. You may know that sciatica is a common condition that affects the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in the human body. It is characterized by pain that radiates from the lower back down through the buttock and leg, and it can be caused by a variety of factors, including herniated discs, spinal stenosis, or even just poor posture.
While rest and medication may provide temporary relief, many people find walking with sciatica an effective way to manage their sciatic pain. Here are some ways in which walking can help with sciatica;
1- Improves Blood Circulation
Walking helps to increase blood flow throughout the body, which can help to reduce inflammation and promote healing. This increased circulation can also help to nourish the spinal discs, which can help to alleviate pain caused by herniated discs.
2- Increases Flexibility
Walking involves a wide range of motion in the lower back, hips, and legs, which can help to improve flexibility and reduce stiffness. This can help to reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve and alleviate pain.
3- Promotes Weight Loss
Excess weight can put extra strain on the lower back, exacerbating sciatic pain. Walking is a low-impact form of exercise that can help to burn calories and promote weight loss, which can help to reduce pressure on the lower back and alleviate pain.
4- Releases Endorphins
Walking, like any form of exercise, releases endorphins, which are natural painkillers produced by the body. These endorphins can help to reduce pain and improve mood.
5- Strengthens Muscles
Walking is a weight-bearing exercise that can help to strengthen the muscles in the lower back, hips, and legs. Strengthening these muscles can help to support the spine and reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve, which can alleviate pain.
How to Walk Safely With Sciatica?
Walking is a great exercise for the people suffering from sciatic pain. However, if you are struggling to walk with sciatica, the following tips can help you walking with sciatica safely without exacerbating the condition;
- Warm-up: Before starting the walk, warm up the muscles by stretching or doing some light exercises to loosen up the tight muscles and increase blood flow.
- Wear comfortable shoes: Wearing shoes that are comfortable and provide good arch support can help to reduce the impact on the spine and alleviate pain.
- Pay attention to posture: Stand straight with your head up, shoulders back, and chest out. Try not to hunch over as it can put pressure on the lower back and aggravate the sciatic nerve.
- Start slow: Start with a slow and steady pace, gradually increasing the speed and distance over time.
- Avoid hills: Walking uphill or downhill can put extra strain on the lower back and aggravate the sciatic nerve. Choose a flat surface for walking.
- Take breaks: Take frequent breaks to rest and stretch the muscles. Prolonged walking without breaks can worsen the symptoms of sciatica.
- Avoid impact: Avoid walking on hard surfaces like concrete, as it can increase the impact on the spine and aggravate the condition. Choose a softer surface like grass or a treadmill.
- Listen to your body: Pay attention to your body’s signals and stop immediately if you feel pain or discomfort.
Other Exercises to Complement Walking for Sciatica
In addition to walking, there are several other exercises that can complement your sciatica treatment plan. The following exercises can help improve your strength, flexibility, and range of motion, which can all contribute to combine sciatica and walking safely;
Practicing yoga can help relieve sciatic pain by stretching and strengthening the muscles around the sciatic nerve. Poses like downward-facing dog, pigeon, and cat-cow can be particularly helpful for sciatica.
Similar to yoga, Pilates can help improve core strength and flexibility, which can reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve. Exercises like pelvic tilts, leg circles, and spine stretches can be effective for relieving sciatica.
- Water Therapy
Exercising in water can be an excellent way to alleviate sciatic pain while reducing the impact on the joints. Water therapy can include swimming, aqua jogging, or simply walking in a pool.
Stretching exercises can be effective in reducing tension in the muscles surrounding the sciatic nerve. Some stretches that can be helpful for sciatica include hamstring stretches, hip flexor stretches, and seated spinal twists.
- Low-Impact Aerobics
Low-impact aerobics, such as stationary biking or using an elliptical machine, can improve cardiovascular health while being gentle on the joints. These exercises can also help to increase blood flow to the affected area, reducing inflammation and pain.
When to Seek Medical Attention
If the sciatica pain when walking gets severe and persists for more than a few days, it is recommended to seek medical attention. Also, consult a qualified medical specialist if;
- The pain is accompanied by numbness, tingling, or weakness in the legs.
- The sciatic pain does not improve after a few days of rest and self-care.
- The sciatica is caused by a sudden injury.
- You experience bladder or bowel dysfunction or loss of control.
- You have a history of cancer.
- The sufferer experiences fever, chills, or other signs of infection.
In conclusion, is walking good for sciatica? Yes, walking is a safe and effective form of exercise for those who suffer from sciatica, as long as it is done properly. But it’s possible only by maintaining good posture, engaging your core muscles, and gradually increasing your distance. It helps to relieve pain and stiffness in your back, hips, and legs and improve your overall health and well-being.
But remember to start slowly, listen to your body, and maintain a good posture when walking with sciatica. If the pain survives, gets severe, or debilitates, I’ll recommend you to seek medical advice. Moreover, follow the preventive tips when walking in sciatic conditions. Enjoy your daily life with mild exercises to relieve the sciatic pain!
Why is my sciatica worse when I walk?
If you don’t follow the preventive tips and guidelines, walking can aggravate sciatica pain. Different reasons, including increased pressure on the sciatic nerve, improper posture, and overuse of certain muscles worsen the sciatic pain conditions. The impact of each step can compress the nerve and cause more pain, especially if the walking surface is uneven. Poor posture while walking can also put additional pressure on the lower back and hips, exacerbating sciatica symptoms.
How to walk with sciatica pain?
When walking with sciatica pain, it is important to maintain proper posture and alignment to minimize pressure on the lower back and sciatic nerve. Take short, frequent breaks to avoid overexertion and listen to your body’s signals of pain or discomfort. It may also be helpful to incorporate other exercises and stretches to complement your walking routine and manage sciatica symptoms.
How much walking is good for sciatica?
A suitable starting point for walking can be a pace of three miles per hour, which is equivalent to covering a mile every 20 minutes approximately. However, this distance can vary depending on the severity of the condition and individual factors. It is generally recommended to start with shorter walks and gradually increase the duration and frequency. Consulting with a healthcare professional can also help in determining an appropriate walking routine.
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