Sciatica is pain in the lower back and legs that can develop in people who have structural problems with the spine. While sciatica may make running painful, running is not the cause of the pain and may actually help in its treatment.
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Sciatica refers to the pain an individual feels from the back down through the leg. The pain radiates from the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body and runs from the spinal cord through the hip and down the back of each leg. It is responsible for controlling most of the muscles in your legs. Sciatica however, is not a disorder but actually a symptom of any of a variety of underlying health problems. Pressure on the nerve from another source can cause the pain known as sciatica, which can be severe in some patients.
Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve is compressed, which usually happens in the lower spine. A common cause of sciatica is a herniated disk. Other spinal and structural disorders can be the cause of sciatica. In addition, trauma, such as a car accident or fall, can damage the spine, which in turn compresses the nerve.
Running uses the muscles affected by sciatica. However, running is not the cause of sciatica, in fact it can help prevent it from occurring. Exercising regularly can benefit your general health, and can improve the condition of your back. When you exercise, however, certain running mechanics may inflame the pain. Poor foot mechanics and poor posture can increase the pain and further inflame the effects of sciatica.
Before you run, it is important to discuss your condition with a physician. A physician can conduct a full physical exam and discover the root cause of sciatica. Once you get approval, you can begin running. Before your runs, be sure to properly stretch your leg and lower back muscles. In addition, when running with sciatica, cut back on your training. Running should not be strenuous. Once sciatica is healed, you can begin your pre-injury training and gradually increase the intensity of your runs.
Sciatica, depending on the cause, usually heals itself in four to eight weeks. Certain self-care treatments may aid in the recovery process. These can include hot or cold packs, stretching, exercise and over-the-counter medications. Doctors may also recommend physical therapy and prescription medications, and in severe cases epidural injections and surgery.