Did you know that according to some studies, 8 out of 10 people have some type of backache? After having surgery last February, I’ve been dealing with sciatica, which is caused by compression of a spinal nerve in your back. It can cause a numbing sensation in my legs, or sometimes a stabbing sharp pain in my lower-right back that limits my motion. This type of pain, which was virtually unknown to me previously, has rocked my world.
If you are like me and love being active, and also use public transportation, or your own two feet to get around every day, this chronic pain is cause for serious concern. Initially, I thought I may never practice yoga like I once had or go on a long distance run again. I think so many people who, for one reason or another, have back pain give up and relinquish themselves to a life of “just feeling comfortable,” or “managing the pain.” But fear not, it does not have to be this way, there is hope!
The good news that I discovered about sciatica is that, in most cases, it is totally treatable with non-operative methods. For this blog, I spoke to board certified and licensed chiropractic physician and certified acupuncturist, Dr. Nolan Lee, who practices out of Balanced Flow Wellness, in the Gold Coast area of Chicago. Fate would have it that he teaches one of my favorite yoga classes and I am always inspired by his body knowledge and interesting flow transitions. This is what he had to say about general back pain, and sciatica specifically:
First and foremost, do not self-diagnose your problem. If you think you may be suffering from back issues, go get examined by a licensed and trusted professional.
Secondly, there are multiple causes for back pain, and treatment depends on what is causing your pain. Different exercises, therapies, and yoga postures will work to cure the pain, but you need to pin point what is causing the pain in the first place. This further justifies being seen by a specialist before trying to start recovery.
If you have sciatica that is affecting your hip, one of the reasons this may be happening is because your piriformis muscle, which is located deep in your glutes, is locked up and pinching the sciatic nerve. You have to work to release the tension and relax this muscle, in order to relieve the discomfort. Dr. Lee said that one of the easiest yoga poses you can try release this tight piriformis muscle is pigeon pose. Often in a yoga class we hold this pose for a longer period of time than we hold others, and that is not by chance. People hold an incredible amount of tension in their hips. It takes time for those muscles to release, so it is important to hold pigeon for at least a minute on both sides to get the full rewards of the posture. Slowly but surely, this pose will help loosen up that tricky glute muscle, and may relieve some of the pain.
My final piece of advice for all those with back pain: do not settle for a life less-lived because of it, seek help in treating it! Find a physician, like Dr. Lee, who is able to assist you in your journey towards a full recovery.