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Understanding Lower Back Pain and Sciatica

Understanding Lower Back Pain and Sciatica

While many people discuss it, few truly understand the origins of low back pain and sciatica. I have my own theory. From my experience I've found sciatica to be pain/tension/irritation/burning/tingling/weakness and more that extends into different areas of the leg in either the hamstring, knee, and calf or a combination of these. This type of chronic pain is communicating excessive tension/load in that area giving us a "butt out the back" posture. This posture is created as a compensation to reduce the pain and keep the person moving forward. Where the actual issue is, might surprise you.

Prolonged periods of sitting, which naturally lengthen our lower glutes and upper hamstrings, often result in tightness on the opposite side of our bodies (our laps). By releasing the commonly known lap area, we can restore balance, aligning the hips more harmoniously with our spines by stacking our shoulders back under our shoulders where they once used to be.

Excessive tilt in either direction can exert pressure and contribute to symptoms of low back pain and sciatica and any and all weakness or chronic and peripheral signals(numbness, buzzing, tingling, burning, pins and needles) to the lower body. To address this posture, I recommend two major movements. These movements are knee sits and the proposal stretch.

Knee Sits:

Starting with knee sits may feel unfamiliar and super uncomfortable - maybe even spooky initially, and you can ease into it by placing a yoga block or pillow under you if this is a very intense movement for you. There is no shame here. If you can sit on the block for 25 breaths, remove the block and lean your full body weight into your shins. This will be difficult for folks starting out! BREATHE!

Ensure comfort by kneeling on a soft surface to cushion your knees and the tops of your feet. Hold this position for 10-15 deep breaths. Be mindful that your low back may attempt to either tense up (guarding) or slump to counteract knee pressure. However, embracing the pressure on your knees is crucial. Without full knee range of motion (flexion and extension), your low back will struggle to counter the forces daily exerted on your knees during activities like walking, putting your lower back at risk of injury. Gradually open up your knee joints over the coming months, you can start with your hands on the ground in a table top position and shifting back and forth from a table top position to pushing your weight back, and let gravity assist. Relax and breathe into this space, being patient and kind to yourself. Expect to get some cramping in the arches of your feet and toes! This is a sign that you need this stretch. Tuck your toes in under and stretch out the arches of your feet if it's limiting your knee sit stretch. Remember to breathe.

The Proposal Stretch: The proposal stretch is a movement specifically designed to lengthen the lap. Placing something under your bent knee on the floor is suggested for optimal stretch benefit. To perform this stretch, get into a single-leg kneeling position, reaching the front foot out long in front of you. Shift your body weight (while keeping your chest up) forward into your front foot. This action opens the front of your hip otherwise known as your lap. Please remember to breath 10-15 breaths. Push the breath deep into your lower belly pushing your belly out. This stretch will be very intense when you begin, rest assured that with practice it gets easier with time and repetition. You should feel the stretch in the front of your hip and into your thigh. To enhance this movement (only enhance if your not feeling a stretch in this position) you can reach back and grab your foot to stretch the quad. Make sure your not flaring your ribs out the front. If your ribs are flaring out the front that suggests that your collapsing through your low back. Lift through your ribs and head like there is a string attached to your upper body while sinking low and heavy into your hips. Breathe 10-15 deep entire body filling breaths.


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