Whether you are an avid cyclist or a common man with sciatic pain, you might have a confusion if cycling can actually help in it. While some people ride & see for themselves, some rely on data & research for the details. This article is for the latter category.
People are speculative if cycling can help sciatic pain? As a matter of fact,cycling can help in bringing down sciatic pain, but only in the right way. There are reasons due to which, if cycling isn’t done the right way, things are bound to turn worse for the rider. Thus, knowing things & keeping the understanding that is needed under such situations is necessary. Let us find out about sciatica or sciatic pain & the effect of cycling on it.
What is Sciatic Pain?
Sciatica or sciatic pain is the persistent pain felt along the sciatic nerve. Sciatic nerve runs from our lower back downwards through the buttock & then into both legs. Whenever this nerve is compressed or injured, the result is pain. It is caused by inflammation, bone chips (due to arthritis) or slip disk in the lower spine. Sciatica causes sharp, burning pain or tingling & numbness along the nerve. The problem grows strong at night causing stronger discomfort & problems. The pain increases with motion. However, this doesn’t mean all sorts of movements must be stopped.
People with sciatica avoid exercise entirely since they are afraid of things taking the wrong turn. But, as said earlier, it isn’t correct. The type of exercise chosen plays a key role here as certain exercises help in this problem & get the nerve relaxed & flexible. Avoiding exercises that hurt & resorting to the ones which make you feel better is the best solution.
Sciatic pain gets bad when sitting on a firm surface due to the sciatic nerve’s route through the buttocks down to the leg.
Sciatica usually gets normal within six weeks. Exercises & stretches that are specially to keep you away from sciatic pain may not allow its return. A physiotherapist is the best man to consult here. Exercises that strengthen the muscles of the back & abdomen are often prescribed as they stabilize the spine bones & keep sciatic pain away by easing the pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Symptoms of sciatica include radiating pain from the lower spine to the buttock & down the back of the legs as the “sure” sign of sciatica. The pain can vary from dull or mild to sharp & shooting. One may also experience electric-like pain that is sudden & fleeting or a burning sensation. There may be numbness or tingling along the pathway of the nerve & certain loss of muscle strength too. In rare cases, one can experience a loss of bowel or bladder control. This particular case is a sign of a more serious disorder & medical attention shall be paid immediately to such level of problems.
Most people get relief with today’s treatments for sciatica. Still, one of the most potent ways of reducing future bouts of sciatica is exercise.Don’t stop your exercise program once your pain has subsided: Keep it up!
Bicycling & Sciatic Pain
We shall now come to sciatic pain from the perspective of a cyclist. Sciatic nerve is a tricky thing & so is cycling. Unlike running, cycling involves the entire body & not just specific areas. When sitting on a bicycle seat, pressure falls on the nerve. The type of seating can variate the pressure. It isn’t the sitting always that makes the symptoms worse. Example, if the sciatic nerve pain is lying higher up near the spine people can cycle.
Let us come to a deeper insight. While cycling, the pressure is actually exerted on the spine, the gluteal muscles, the coccyx (tailbone) & the sciatic nerve. The reason can be explained quite simply. The seat on cycles is usually small, thus, there is more pressure on the buttocks owing to the small surface area. This results in compression of the muscles & the nerves. Further, certain people have an unusual positioning of the sciatic nerve. It may run inside the piriformis muscle instead of running under it. This makes the nerve more easier to be picked up for sciatica. Further issues on the back muscles & spine can come from the hunched posture where the shoulder is raised & the torso is bent forward. This is usually in case of riding a road bike. Vigorous pedaling leads to pressure & tension of the lower back which further aggravates the problem.
As a matter of surprise, emotional reasons contribute to sciatica too. Because the symptoms come physically, one may not associate the mental state to sciatica. However, stress levels & the potential desire for perfection can also contribute bigtime. Stress increases tension in muscles of the neck & the back. This leads to an add-on to the pressure in the spine & the neighbouring muscles & nerves. More often than not, if one is a professional or serious cyclist, the focus lies extensively on the performance level. This focus to achieve results adds to the amount of tension in the back & legs which is usually not realized due to the hard work being put. But., it is a contributing factor for pinching that sciatic nerve & causing pain.
How Does Cycling Help in Sciatic Pain?
While people have divided opinions when it comes to cycling releaving sciatic pain, ther are ways in which cycling actually helps & this has also been experienced by people who tried cycling to heal sciatic pain. Some bike riding tips for helping get rid of sciatic pain are as follows:.
- Ride when you are able to rideAfter a few days of stretching when the pain eases out a bit, one must see if cycling is possible. The nerves loosen up a little sometimes & this is when one should try riding as it would further give some exercise & loosen up the nerves more. The great thing about the bicycling during sciatic pain is the longer one rides, the more his/her pain improves.
- Move around on the bikeMix it up while paddling by switching between standing up & paddling & sitting down & paddling. Being seated while riding is fine but, standing upright & switching things takes the pressure off the nerve region.
- Weight LossIf you’re going to stay indoors during some time due to sciatic pain you’re sure to add some pounds. Cycling will definitely help your cause along with drinking lots of water.
- Air biking – your true friend
There can be situations when you are person with sciatic pain but you won’t have a bike to help your cause. But, this shouldn’t deter you from biking & inching towards recovery. Air bike rides laying on the back is a good exercise to start things off until you get a bike. This will help you to raise & lower your legs & help you with some exercise. By doing this, one is sure to have instant relief like a bike. But, this isn’t actual biking & so, the benefit will not match that scale of what it does during actual biking.
- Ride earlyRiding early in the morning is a good thing. The air is fresh & so is the day. The very first thing in the morning for sciatic pain affected people should be cycling. It will get the blood flowing through the nerves.
Biking is a good thing for sciatic pain affected people. Though, we don’t encourage the fact that going for cycling straight away. Unless your condition permits you to do, don’t. Taking help of a physiotherapist here is of primordial importance as that person can help you with the needed exercises to undertake in order to get things done quickly. However, if biking makes the symptoms worse, one should try something else for exercise. Good choices may be walking or swimming because the pressure falling on the nerves is less especially in case of swimming. Going for alternating hot & cold compresses to ease inflammation around the nerve is a good idea like coffee on a winter morning. Some medications may also be suggested to help you out like acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain. Or try anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox), ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, others) or aspirin for pain & inflammation. Prescription medications that treat chronic nerve pain may also help. In severe cases, an injection of a long-acting anesthetic with a steroid medication can provide relief.
All in all, cycling can help sciatic pain considerably However, having the bike of perfect fit is necessary. Plus, the riding posture, use of big saddles without nose, using padded bike shorts & finally, the right type of bike are also factors that need to be looked into essentially before making a choice.