For the average personal training client, you will likely need to develop prevention exercises for sciatica. People who are inactive, sedentary, or struggling with obesity are at much higher risk for debilitating sciatic nerve pain. 38% of adults do not participate in physical activity and most likely sit at their desks all day long on top of that (*cough* sedentary behavior *cough*). A whopping 73.6% of adults are overweight and overlapping that is a 42% of people are obese.
But you already knew all those stats, right? That’s why you pursued a career in the personal training industry.
Here, we want to dig a little deeper beyond the issues at large and unravel the problems that make it even more difficult for people to get in shape.
Pain. Sciatic nerve pain to be exact. In this article, we discuss why you should consider prescribing exercises for sciatica before it’s even a problem for clients. This is an often debilitating pain that prevents people from reaching their healthiest selves. Without the right physical activity, it can worsen over time.
What is Sciatic Nerve Pain?
Sciatica is, essentially, the enemy of your buttocks, legs, and lower back. Your sciatic nerve runs from the base of your spine and splits in two down both legs. This is the largest nerve in your body both in length and diameter. The nerve branches off in multiple directions throughout the leg, so it acts as the stem for many, many nerves throughout your lower body. Therefore, when this nerve becomes irritated, or worst of all, injured, the pain can become debilitating for your lower half. It’s recognized by a sharp stabbing or firey pain and sometimes causes numbness down the lower back to the toes.
The sciatic nerve can become injured, pinched, or inflamed in a few different ways. This nerve, as with most other things in your body, reacts to pressure. Pressure from your posture, stance, and pants has a varying effect on the nerve. On top of that, your nerve can become pinched or irritated from a spinal issue.
As with everything in your body, when one body part or system is damaged or suffering, others follow in quick succession if left untreated. Your spine can have a massive effect on the ability of your sciatic nerve to do its job in peace. The most common spinal injury that affects the sciatic nerve is called a lumbar herniated disc.
A herniated disc occurs when the fluid that acts as a cushion between the discs becomes worn down through disc degeneration. This leads to pressure on the spinal nerve root and causes it to become irritated. In that bundle of spinal nerves begins the static nerve and thus you experience sciatica.
How common is sciatica?
According to Harvard Health, sciatica is prevalent in as much as 40% of the population. That’s a whopping amount of people with sharp, shooting pain through their lower bodies. Imagine how much more productive we would be as a society with a large reduction in this pain alone.
Because sciatica can be crippling, people often want to rest to avoid further pain or strain. However, this can work in the opposite effect and make the pain worse because the muscles around the point of the inflammation not
Once again, the risk of developing sciatica is much higher in those who are overweight, obese, or sedentary… and also during pregnancy!
That sounds like exactly what you solve as a personal trainer or coach! So let’s get into what muscle groups should be targeted to treat and prevent sciatic nerve pain.
What muscle group to target with exercises for sciatica?
When forming exercises for sciatica, you must consider the lumbar spine and the muscles that support it. The latter five vertebrae make up the lumbar spine while the sciatic nerve connects at L4 and L5. Around those vertebrae are the tailbone and the sacrum. And around those bones are a whole slew of muscles that put in serious work to support the lower spine.
The multifidus, spinales (including interspinales), and longissimus are the larger muscles that contribute to the support of the lower spine up the back. However, underneath the lumbar spine are a few other areas of muscles that should be targeted in exercises for sciatica. The most important and closely associated muscle to the sciatic nerve is the piriformis muscle.
The piriformis muscle acts as the stabilizer for your hips and helps rotate the hip by attaching between the hip and the femur. The sciatic nerve runs directly beneath this muscle, squished between the pelvis and the piriformis muscle. Therefore, the proximity of this muscle and the support it gives to the sciatic nerve means it has plenty of power over how that nerve is handled.
In about 17% of people, the nerve actually runs through the muscle itself! While this is relatively rare, it’s still important to understand how close it is in proximity to the muscle itself. This muscle is located right in the buttocks! So to go even further the glutes are an important area to focus on when considering exercises to support the sciatic nerves.
Moving down the body, following the path of the nerve, support for the nerve beneath and around the hip region is equally as important.
Hip Hinge Exercises as a Preventative
These exercises prove valuable for preventing sciatic nerve pain for a few reasons. First, what are hip hinge exercises?
Your hip hinge is the combination of muscles and bones, or the posterior chain, that supports your lower spine, hips, and upper legs. Support for the hinge is massively important in the preservation of spinal health, particularly the lower five vertebrae of your spine.
The hip hinge supports many daily activities like lifting, walking, running, and, frankly, just staying upright. Without a strong hip hinge, the spine can bend in ways that cause the static nerve to become irritated and inflamed.
Hip hinge exercises focus on keeping your back straight and pressing your hips back and down into a stretch (the age-old athletic position). Sitting on your heels as you press backward into your glutes at the hinge of your hip.
Always prioritize proper form when working with your clients. Especially with clients who are already suffering from sciatica.
Avoid exercises that can strain the lower back and glutes. For the time that they are experiencing sciatica, it is best to only assign stretches, yoga, swimming, and other forms of movement that are not strenuous on the body.
However, movement is vital to reducing pain from sciatica as well as preventing it from happening at all. Therefore, for clients who fall under the at-risk category for developing sciatica, make sure you are creating fitness routines that will help prevent them from developing this issue.
You have the awesome job of improving people’s lives for the long term and sciatica is just another ailment that you can help prevent and reduce the 40% statistic of people who experience it.
Need some help in building out workouts and exercises for your client more efficiently? Use FitSW to stay on top of your client’s assignments and progress.