If you’ve recently been diagnosed with sciatica, you are probably trying to learn as much as possible about this condition. First of all, you should understand what might have led to you developing sciatica. The most common cause of sciatica is an irritated or compressed sciatic nerve, which can happen due to various spine conditions as well as injuries and tumors. Your physician must have told you that sciatica is treatable but it’s vital that you don’t further complicate your condition. This is why you should learn more about the things you need to avoid if you have sciatica.
Exercises to avoid
Working out can help you combat sciatica but there are some exercises that you most certainly need to steer clear of.
1. Stretching your lower back
People believe that having a tight back causes their pain and sciatica. However, the truth is that a tight back is actually a symptom of sciatica, not the cause of pain. Trying to become more flexible can only worsen your condition. If you are experiencing pain in your lower back area, it’s better to try out some exercises that will strengthen your core and spine instead of relying only on stretching.
2. Cracking your own back
Cracking your own back can feel very good in the moment but you need to be aware of the fact that this is only a temporary solution that can only lead to more chronic pain in time. What you need in order to feel better is postural awareness, movement quality, and strengthening of your hips and back.
3. Abdominal stretches
When stretching your abs, you are putting pressure on the lower back area. This stance can lead to further compression of the sciatic nerve so you should avoid it at all costs, unless you have consulted with your physician and they’ve approved it. What is more, even if they say that it is okay to perform a certain exercise, you should stop as soon as it becomes painful.
4. Stretching your hamstrings
As the sciatic nerve branches into each leg, stretching your hamstrings can also exacerbate your pain in the long run. It’s important to understand that stretching will not solve your issue but it might actually make it worse. Putting your body in such a position where you will further irritate your pain points should be avoided.
5. Leg lifts and curls
Other than stretching your hamstrings, other leg exercises like lifts and curls can also be detrimental to your effort to relieve pain. If you’re facing down, doing these exercises will apply pressure to your lower back and hurt the spinal cord.
6. Crunches and twists
Any kind of exercise that rounds your back is not good for sciatica but you should especially steer clear of crunches, side crunches, and Russian twists. These can damage your discs over time and make the pain worse.
7. Straight-legged sit-ups
While certain types of sit-ups are completely fine, there are also some like the straight-legged sit-up that you should avoid as they can disturb the structure of the spinal cord and cause numbness in your lower extremities as well as inflammation. What is more, permanent nerve damage is something that might also occur.
8. Full-body squats
Full-body squats with barbells can cause nerve and intervertebral compression and lead to damage in your lower spine. Pain in the legs and buttocks is not uncommon either. Not all squats are bad but when you have sciatica, you have to avoid putting pressure on your lower back.
If you’re a weightlifter, your life will certainly be impacted if you suffer from sciatica as lifting weights can aggravate your pain. In order to be able to do these exercises without pain, you should look into the shockwave sciatica treatment and learn the proper form to provide your lower back with adequate support.
10. Bent-over rows
These exercises target your arms and back. While they can be done so that they benefit the body, people usually have bad form, such as rounding their back, which puts them at risk of disc herniation.
Straight-leg deadlifts can actually be good for your back but only if you know how to perform them properly. One tiny mistake is enough to make your disc bulge worse. Plus, they stretch your hamstrings, which we mentioned earlier as one of the things to avoid.
Food to avoid
Other than exercises, there are also some foods that should be avoided if you have sciatica.
Sugar increases inflammation when consumed in high doses and might result in type-2 diabetes. Both of these issues can worsen your sciatica symptoms. You might not even be aware of how much sugar you are consuming daily so start reading food labels and try to cut down on fizzy drinks and fruit juices as well as fruits that are very sweet. Consider grapes, blueberries, and pineapple as an alternative.
13. Vegetable oil
You might think that vegetable oil is a better alternative to animal fat for preparing food but it can actually worsen inflammation. Besides avoiding it when cooking, check the labels of the food you buy as products like mayonnaise also contain it. Replace it with virgin coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil, which both have strong anti-inflammatory properties.
14. Fried and processed foods
Food that has been over-processed is best avoided as it has pro-inflammatory properties and high fat content. Snacks like chips are also prepared in an unhealthy way and lead to bad eating habits. Opt for home-baked kale chips instead.
15. Flour and dough
Something else you need to avoid if you have sciatica is flour. Seeing as how it contains gluten in most cases, you need to steer clear of bread, pasta, and pizza if you also have celiac disease. If your body has an issue digesting gluten, your inflammation levels might increase. Luckily, there are now more and more gluten-free alternatives available so you should have no problem finding a suitable replacement.
If you have sciatica, it’s important to know which exercises and foods are good for you and which ones you should avoid. Educate yourself in order to feel better and don’t hesitate to contact your physician if you have any doubts.