Sciatica pain relief: Stretching

by Christina Abbott on July 11, 2010

When sciatica type symptoms get the better of you and nothing you do seems to make it better, here is something you can do to relieve pain every day from my checklist for corrective actions and treatments Part 1.

stretchingStretching is a big key to pain relief of “sciatica” pains. Use the Active Isolated Stretching method: Actively stretch, assist at the end range for 2 seconds max and repeat 10x. Find out which muscles are tight and use specific stretches to lengthen them. (See my post on AIS protocol.)

Stretching serves at least two purposes. The first is that it lengthens and relaxes your muscles, allowing them to work more efficiently when you need them. Muscles contract in the middle (like Popeye) shortening the muscle length and forming an area where the tissue is thicker from the doubled-up muscle cells. As they contract in the middle, they shorten the muscle, pulling on the ends where they attach to bones. If the muscles can’t relax and form muscle contraction knots, they stay in that doubled-up state and can’t move well because they are shorter than normal. When they lengthen they can relax. Stretching lengthens and relaxes muscles when it is done correctly.

The second purpose is to get fresh blood pumped into the muscle to bring energy cells, nutrients and oxygen which are necessary for it’s health and ability to do work. Almost as important is that stretching increases lymph flow. The lymph is what is collected by lymph vessels from the fluids that surround all the tissues (interstitial fluids).  The content includes waste products of various kinds. When waste is allowed to accumulate and decompose, it forms acids that irritate the nerves and cause pain. Without the lymphatic system, we would die in 48 hours (reference Dr. Bruno Chickley). As the muscles work, contracting and relaxing, blood and lymph are pumped through. Active Isolated Stretching, as the name implies, is active rather than passive stretching. The activity does the pumping. Passive stretching with the stretch held for a long time does no pumping, in fact it reduces fluid flow by narrowing the blood and lymph vessels.

Stretching has also been found to help release Trigger Points (reference Travel and Simons), those areas of hyperactivity that work a muscle constantly and that refer pain. In my Neuromuscular Therapy center near Boston, I stress the use of AIS for patients with TrP activity. If you pull on a muscle that is actively contracting, it is counterproductive, even harmful. AIS prevents the protective action of the muscles to threatening activity and helps release those hyper muscles.

For sciatic symptoms there are specific AIS stretches that help the low back muscles, the glutes, piriformis and hamstring muscles. To see those stretches, buying Stretching for Everyone by Aaron Mattes is a sound investment of $15 . Go to our sidebar store or directly to his web site.

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