Sciatica, along with back and neck pain, can feel almost debilitating, but in many cases, learning how to stretch the muscles along your spine will lead to a much better outcome over time than will extended bed rest. Some rest after an initial strain or outbreak of Sciatica is usually unavoidable, but the more time you spend reclined, the less conditioned your back muscles and spinal structures become.
Cause and Diagnosis
A common cause of back and neck pain is simple strain, which stretching will both help you recover from as well as aid in preventing strain in the future. Chronic pain in the neck, back or leg should be diagnosed by a medical expert, most importantly to rule out any serious conditions, but also so that a doctor or physical therapist can recommend the correct stretches for your condition. Stretching an incorrect muscle group, one that may already be stronger than those causing the pain, will lead to worse problems down the road.
Though many people consider stretching a part of the warm up prior to actual exercise, stretching itself will provide more benefit if you warm up for it. The main areas for a pre-stretch warm up are joint rotation, which allows them to function more easily, and a quick aerobic exercise, which will raise your core temperature and get more blood flowing to the muscles. Five minutes should be fine. Think of your muscles as rubber bands. When stretched cold, they are more apt to snap back to their original position, or they could just snap. When stretched warm, they will stretch farther, and remain more elongated afterward.
How to Stretch
- Stay hydrated. Dehydrated muscles become sore and tired more quickly, and may be more apt to tear or cramp up.
- When stretching multiple muscle groups, start at the top and work down. This allows your body to use the newly stretched muscles in each succeeding activity.
- Move slowly, to the point of tension rather than pain. Do not bounce.
- Exhale during each stretch, and hold each for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Don't overdo it. Sets of 3 to 5 stretches are plenty.