Dr. Cheryl Hurst is a health psychologist and yoga instructor in Chicago, where she develops individualized yoga therapy sequences for clients with sciatica. Exercise with proper anatomical alignment is a vital part of treatment for sciatica. Yoga for sciatica can improve flexibility in tight muscles that may be aggravating the sciatic nerve. Yoga therapy can increase internal space around the sciatic nerve to help release any nerve impingements and relieve pain along the sciatic nerve.
At the bottom of the spinal cord, two nerves branch out, travel through your hips and buttocks, then go down each leg. These nerves are called the sciatic nerves. Sciatica refers to leg pain that results when the sciatic nerve is pinched or compressed. The pain can be caused by anatomical problems with the spine and hips that put pressure on the nerve or by compression of the sciatic nerve by a muscle spasm in the buttocks area.
Nerve pain is the primary symptom of sciatica. It can feel like a mild annoyance in the background or an unbearable, shooting pain with a gnawing sensation in its wake. Sometimes sciatica makes the affected leg go numb or become weak. The pain may be worse after sitting for a long time.
Doctors often recommend exercise for sciatica, with the goal of finding movements that lower pain by reducing pressure on the nerve. Yoga therapy helps to achieve that goal through targeted stretching to improve flexibility of tight muscles and through strengthening muscles in the back, abdomen, and legs. Yoga improves pelvic posture, which goes a long way toward relaxing muscle spasms and relieving sciatica pain.
As long as yoga therapy is carefully guided under the care of a specialist like Dr. Hurst, it’s safe and effective for most people with sciatica. If you have severe pain or a herniated disc, talk it over with Dr. Hurst and your medical doctor before starting a yoga therapy program.
Specialized equipment and techniques facilitate yoga postures with proper alignment and body mechanics for extended holds in order to encourage healing through nerve attunement, a dampening of nerve misfirings and a quieting of nerve pain signals.
Low-impact activity and targeted daily stretching can help prevent and reduce the intensity of sciatica pain and reduce the frequency of sciatica flare-ups. Correcting posture and strengthening the muscles around the pelvis can help take pressure off the sciatic nerve. Yoga therapy is the perfect way to meet those treatment recommendations. Dr. Hurst develops an individualized plan for you that delivers the best results by beginning with postures you can tolerate, then gradually progresses to build strength and flexibility.
Chronic pain from sciatica has a significant impact on your emotional and social well-being. It interferes with work, enjoying time with friends, and saps your energy. By combining yoga with her expertise as a health psychologist, Dr. Hurst can integrate relaxation, stress relief, and guided breathing into yoga therapy sessions to improve your emotional well-being as well as your relief from pain.