Sciatica Exercise – McKenzie Method For Sciatica Pain Relief

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Sciatica Exercise – The McKenzie exercises

While you may have heard from several people that sciatica exercises are immensely beneficial for recovery, not all these exercises really prove to be helpful. In fact, there are some exercises that should not be practiced at all if you are experiencing acute symptoms, since they may actually worsen your condition.

Sciatica exercises - Mckenzie method

To highlight this, let us consider a situation. Take for example, hamstring stretches. While people may suggest that this is an immensely helpful exercise for your condition, one should, in fact, only practice it if they experience pain reduction. If the sufferer is in the same condition as before, these exercises will only exert added tension on the sciatic nerve, leading to a more painful and aggravated condition. This is precisely why most physiotherapists suggest that a patient suffering from sciatic pain must stay away from any exercise or physical movement that might increase pain in the legs or even further down, when in the acute phase of the condition.

Any health expert or physical therapist would suggest doing McKenzie exercises at this point; simply because it is amongst the safest treatment approach you can try. Research and independent studies have indicated that these exercises are actually more effective than all forms of medications, even when compared to epidural steroid injections. McKenzie exercises are largely associated with the spinal extension, and this is also why they are sometimes called extension exercises, although this is clearly a mistake. In reality, McKenzie exercises focus on testing several positions and movements so as to determine the best one which will help in centralizing the pain and other symptoms.

Technically, it would be incorrect to refer to these set of movements as exercises. They are, as a matter of fact, a complete approach to resolving spine issues. Robin McKenzie from New Zealand, a physiotherapist himself, is credited with the invention of this method. During his practice, he concluded the role of the back in extending treatment to the pain. Ideally, McKenzie method focuses on self treatment and individual help by self-help methods.

Centralization is the keyword in this technique, and its practitioners use the word when referring to the pain that has been treated in affected areas farthest from the spine. For example, if we were to consider a sciatica patient with pain from the leg all the way down to a foot, centralization would mean that the pain from the lower leg to the foot has been treated, and now only extends to the knee. Similarly, if the pain has been extended to the knee in the first place, centralization here would denote that the pain has left the thigh, and now only extends up till the hip.

The McKenzie method involves three steps, and they are briefly described below:

•    Assessment – The practitioner considers your entire body and recommends a few movements which evaluate your current condition. Then the type of problem is identified, mainly concluded on the pain or limitations that you encounter when performing some specific exercises.
•    Healing – This is to involve the patient in the process of treatment, and your McKenzie practitioner will again recommend some exercises. Here, it is of utmost importance that you consult a certified practitioner to suggest and help you go through the exercises.
•    Prevention – This is the last step, and but holds equal importance as the two mentioned above. You will know the cause of your condition, and you can use the knowledge gained to prevent the situation from recurring.

Similar to all forms of treatment, there are a few limitations to this method too, although very few. Centralization of the pain is essential, and if this does not happen, the McKenzie method will do you no good. The main advantage, however, is the obvious treatment of the pain via natural methods and of course, without any invasive surgery.

A basic exercise in this method involves the patient to lie flat on a hard surface. Lay down on your stomach, and prop your chest on your elbows. This will enable your lumbar spine to come into an extended position, thereby affecting your sciatica pain. The underlying principle here is that this position squeezes the bulging disc material in the forward direction and also away from the sciatica nerves, helping your reduce inflammation as well as compression. Now, this is a simple movement and might tempt you to maintain it for longer periods. However, it works best when you do it for shorter periods, like a minute or two. Ensure that you rest your body before every repetition, since this will allow your lumbar musculature from getting stressed. Also, it is strongly advised that you only consult a certified McKenzie method practitioner for detailed information on other exercises and their principle of working.

McKenzie exercise for lumbar disc herniation

McKenzie Press-up

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