The Sciatic nerve is the largest and longest nerve in your body. It has a diameter about the same size as your thumb. It originates on each side of your low spine, runs under your sitz bones and down the back of each leg. Because the sciatic nerve connects the spinal cord to the outside of your thigh, hamstrings, calves and feet, problems with this nerve can result in pain or numbness anywhere along its path from your low back to your foot.
Over time sitting on your wallet causes compression and inflammation of your sciatic nerve which can result in pain or numbness anywhere along its length.
Chronic pain can have a far reaching negative impact on your life, but it is not something you have to live with and the only options for relief are not pain killers or surgery. I have had tremendous success working with yoga therapy clients to alleviate chronic back and sciatica pain. As a broad generalization, sitting will make this type of discomfort worse and exercise will make it better. However, it is very possible to determine it’s cause and then eliminate the problem while also alleviating the symptom.
The causes that are most commonly attributed to sciatica are: tight hips, tight hamstrings, and being overweight. There are other, not often talked about, conditions that might be causing your sciatic pain. Modifying these habits, while finding an appropriate exercise regimen can be life changing.
1. YOUR MONEY
While having a “fat wallet” seems like a good thing, where you put it impacts the health and happiness of your back. Putting your wallet in your rear pocket and sitting on it in the office, or while you drive, puts pressure on the sciatic nerve that runs from each side of your low back, under your sitz bones and down each leg. Over time sitting on your wallet causes compression and inflammation of your sciatic nerve which can result in pain or numbness anywhere along its length. In addition, because your wallet is under one side of your seat, one hip is slightly elevated and your spine is misaligned. Over time this imbalance will cause chronic muscle tension in your hip, low back and/or your waist which further aggravates the problem.
The fix: Change your habit of where you put your wallet.
Yoga pose to alleviate the pain: Bridge pose, mountain rising from the sea
2. YOUR CAR
If you drive with your seat too far away from the steering wheel you will dome your back and slouch forward to keep your hands on the wheel. The muscles between your shoulder blades become slack and your shoulders roll forward as you hold this driving slouch. This type of poor posture puts extra pressure on your low back. If the back and head rest of the driver’s seat is pushed too far back, it isn’t supporting the back of your shoulders. As your shoulders roll forward you may be moving your head forward and out of alignment with your spine, exaggerating or flattening the natural curve of your neck and straining the muscles and soft tissue.
The fix: Make sure your head rests against the seat back and re-position the driver’s seat so that you are not reaching for the steering wheel.
Yoga pose to alleviate the pain: Triangle, Extended Angle, Bow
3. YOUR BUTT
A lifestyle of sitting all day has diminished the strength of your glutes which results in your pelvic bowl becoming unstable. When your pelvis isn’t held in place with strong muscles it will easily shift up/down or front/back. If your pelvis is skewed, the vertebrae of your low spine are compromised, your hip joints can become misaligned, and your sacroiliac joints are vulnerable to dysfunction and eventually arthritis. Any of these situations can cause pain in your low back, hip or leg that is aggravated when you stand, sit or bend over.
The fix: The only way to strengthen a muscle is to use it.
Yoga pose to alleviate the pain: squat, lunge, warrior 1, 2 and 3.