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Hi everyone! It’s your favorite cardio queen Kathleen, and today we are going to talk about a subject that many people are familiar with—sciatica. Is walking on a treadmill good or bad for sciatica?
For most people suffering from sciatic nerve pain, walking on a treadmill (see my walking pad reviews )or any kind of walking will cause them pain if they walk for too long, but so does sitting down for a long period. The good news is that walking, when done properly, is beneficial for people with sciatica.
Whether it’s you or someone you care about, there is one thing you can say about sciatica—IT HURTS!
If you’ve never had it, imagine someone shoving a sharp stick down the back of your thigh, perhaps all the way to your ankle, and for some people, down the bottom of the foot as well.
Doesn’t sound like fun, does it?
Naturally, you’ll want to get rid of that pain ASAP, but it’s easier said than done.
In today’s article, I will tell you some of the best ways to get rid of sciatic nerve pain, including using your trusty treadmill.
Keep in mind that I am not a doctor or chiropractor, I’ve just been to them a lot!
Take a chair and let’s get started!
Why Does Sciatic Nerve Pain Hurt So Much?
All types of nerve pain hurt like heck.
The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body, so it’s pretty easy to see that you’ve got a lot of areas to do damage to and still cause nerve pain.
This nerve runs from the middle of your butt down the back of your thigh, the back of the calf, and all the way to your toes!
When this nerve gets irritated, usually from a herniated disc or a slight overgrowth of bone in the pelvis or spinal area, or if it becomes compressed (what is more commonly called a “pinched” nerve) the sciatic nerve can cause pretty intense pain.
How do you stop this type of pain? Let’s talk about that since no one wants to be in pain or get high on pain medication constantly.
Does Walking Help Heal the Sciatic Nerve?
Keep in mind that the nerve isn’t necessarily damaged, like a cut to the skin, but it is either compressed or inflamed.
Most people will find that walking on a treadmill or even walking on the street will cause their sciatica to flare up if they walk for too long.
The bad news is that sitting down is almost as bad. In fact, anyone who has had sciatica will tell you that the worst pain occurs after sitting for a period of time and then standing upright to walk.
Walking hurts, sitting feels good for a time, but that nerve pain will flare up again. It seems like the only thing that doesn’t hurt is lying in bed.
So should you lie in bed for 4-6 weeks? Absolutely not!
Does Walking Worsen Sciatica?
The short answer here is no, it won’t make it worse, but the pain might have you believing otherwise.
The best way to alleviate sciatic pain is to get some simple exercise, such as walking. I recommend walking on a treadmill at home so you can stop as soon as you start feeling some intense pain.
I know this doesn’t sound like a picnic in the park, and it isn’t. However, if you choose to lie in bed all day for weeks on end, you might be grateful for a job and insurance that let’s you do this, but you will end up in more pain than you were before, just slightly different.
All your muscles will be weak by lying in bed or on the sofa. Most of your muscles, including the piriformis muscle, will shorten.
When you do try to get out of bed and start moving around, you will need to stretch, stretch, and stretch some more. Even then, your muscles will be incredibly weak, and you will need to do exercise, possibly even physical therapy to get yourself back in working order.
Why not save yourself the pain and trouble and start doing all those things now? By “those things” I mean stretching and exercising.
I Can’t Even Walk! How Can I Start an Exercise Program?
I hear you, I really do, but the fact remains that the best way to get relieve sciatic pain fast is to start stretching and doing simple exercises.
Start with stretching. Do an internet search for yoga poses that are safe for sciatica or safe for the lower back ( you might like to read my article about massage guns for lower back pain ).
You may find some of the poses uncomfortable, but unless you experience severe pain, do your best to complete the poses.
Stretching the muscles and connective tissue is an effective sciatica relief exercise and one of the best ways to both reduce inflammation and reduce compression of the nerve.
Once you’ve been stretching every day for a week, you should add walking on a treadmill.
Be gentle with yourself and take your time. Start by walking at a slow pace for as long as you can without too much pain. For most people that will probably be only 10-15 minutes, but that’s fine.
You can start by stretching one day, then walking the next. Do this for a couple of weeks and you should start feeling a lot better.
Once you hit the point where you can walk for 30 minutes with a minimal amount of pain, you can add more time to your walking plan or start doing other types of exercise if you like.
What Should I Avoid If I have Sciatica?
Some stretches and exercises are definitely NOT good for sciatica.
Avoid stretching exercises that involve the hamstrings (the back of the thighs). Touching your toes or the downward dog are two examples of big no-nos for those with sciatic pain.
Doing squats, especially while holding weights, is also something to avoid, as are straight leg sit-ups and leg raises. While these are meant to improve your abdominal muscles, they also put a strain on your lower back and can irritate the sciatic nerve, causing sciatic pain.
At the End of the Day
Is walking on a treadmill good for sciatica? Yes, it is, and while it might cause you some discomfort at first, if you are consistent, you will find that walking really helps, as does gentle stretching.
The shooting pain of sciatica is not fun, and sciatic pain strikes both sexes at almost any given time.
Learn to avoid sciatica symptoms by starting a regular exercise program and doing regular stretching BEFORE you experience sciatic symptoms.
Stay happy and healthy, friends!
1. Is it better to rest or exercise with sciatica?
Both! Your body does need some rest, but resting all the time isn’t good for your sciatica or the rest of your body. Do some stretching and walking, then give your body time to rest and heal.
2. How long does sciatica take to heal?
About 4-6 weeks. Unfortunately, if you don’t take steps to find the root cause, chances are good that it will return.
3. Should I push through sciatic nerve pain?
If the pain is mild, yes, try to keep walking or stretching. If the pain becomes too severe, rest and try again in a few hours or the next day.
4. What happens when sciatica won’t go away?
If you continue experiencing sciatic pain after 3 months, doctors will consider your sciatic pain to be “chronic”. Depending on the root cause, you may need to have surgery. See your doctor or chiropractor if you have no change in your sciatic pain after 6 weeks.
Written by Kathleen Langdon – TheHealthPot.com Founder
Certified Personal Trainer (CPT), Certified Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES)
Kathleen, a mother of two, struggled with ongoing weight and health issues. She created this website after she turned her life around. She built Thehealthpot.com to help inspire and motivate others with their fitness goals. Read more about Kathleen here.