Finally. A day without leg pain!
So you've overcome that nasty sciatica. No more shooting pain into your leg whenever you hit a bump while driving your car. No more having to drag yourself home after work and lie on the floor all night just to find a bit of relief. Maybe you can even stop the medication that knocks you out and constipates you for days on end.
The worst thing in the world would be for the pain to come back once you have had some relief. Sure, you are happy that you feel better. That's a good first step. But getting the pain reduced is only one step toward solving the problem that caused the pain in the first place. So let the healing begin.
Whether the direct cause of your sciatic nerve pain is a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, facet syndrome or piriformis syndrome, as the nerve pain begins to lessen you need to be paying close attention to your lifestyle so you can change the habits that got you into such a condition.
Most disc herniations and lower back problems come from deviated posture, repeated loading of the spine over time, or long periods of sitting like in some office jobs. Long-sustained immobile postures create stiffness of the joints. Long periods of sitting are the perfect setup for this. Then the joints accumulate fluid and become stiff. With long periods of immobility on a daily basis you develop chronic postural overload and adaptive muscle shortening.
Sometimes Gravity is not your friend.
So when working to reverse the deterioration process that caused the disc problem, we want to not just re-hydrate the disc and reduce any herniations but also strengthen weak muscles, lengthen restrictive muscles, restore correct posture, and relearn how to sit and stand properly.
This is where most disc rehabilitation programs fall short. Once the pain is gone and the movement restored, you are marched right into a trunk strengthening program, maybe they call it a Core program or something like that. But the problem with most of these programs is that they rely primarily on strengthening muscles, sometimes just one muscle, sometimes entire muscle groups. And they are nearly always symmetrical, done the same on both left and right sides.
But it is not just a matter of strength. You can't just do a ton of situps and expect your back to get better. You can't just do Swiss ball training and expect the disc to recover. Most spine researchers think that you only really have to increase the strength of your back about ten percent to handle the load. Best results happen with proper rehabilitation and that requires improvement not just in strength, but mostly in coordination and flexibility of the entire spine.
And if your program is simply balanced right to left, you probably are not dealing with the asymmetry that caused the problem. You may just be building the asymmetry even stronger and setting yourself up for another problem in the future.
It is not at all uncommon in our sciatica and herniated disc treatment programs for the real breakthrough to come only after we address areas of the body away from the herniated disc. The areas that are malfunctioning and transferring the force onto the herniated disc and then onto the sciatic nerve.
In addition to developing new activity habits you also will benefit from not doing the things that will put the pressure back on the nerve. You do not want to increase the compressive forces on disc with loading, so no sit-ups or flexion of your back and especially do not flex your spine immediately upon rising in the morning (like brushing teeth) or after long periods of driving.
Once you have healed your disc as good as it can get it usually doesn't take a lot of your time or effort to keep it healed. Your goal should be to heal it once and keep it healed.
While it may take a little extra work on your part, making the favorable changes in your lifestyle and daily activities now will set the stage for increased mobility, less pain and better health as you age.