Is Walking Good For Sciatic Nerve Pain?

By Ben Loomis – DSC_9441.jpg, CC BY 2.0,

If you have sciatica pain, you may be tempted to take your bed to rest. You will realize very quickly that not only does resting not help in many cases, it could make your pain worse. But is walking good for sciatica, or some other kind of exercise? It’s definitely. Here ‘s exactly what you need to know.

What is sciatica?

Sciatica describes a particular type of pain. The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve in the body. It originates in the lumbar spine, and then runs through the buttocks, down the hip, and all the way to the foot on the outside of your leg. Any injury anywhere on the nerve can cause sciatic pain.

Bulging or herniated disks are typical causes of sciatic pain, such as spinal stenosis. Sciatic pain may also be caused by osteoarthritis, spinal fracture, or disk degeneration when the spine bones place pressure on the sciatic nerve. People between 45 and 64 years of age are most likely to experience sciatic pain. Risk factors include such things as repetitive stress injury, smoking, and height or weight gain.

Is walking good for sciatica?

One of the best questions to ask your doctor when you are diagnosed with sciatica is this: is walking good for sciatica nerve pain? The answer is a resounding yes to the vast majority of patients. Walking for sciatica is a first-line treatment for pain relief and healing.

Consider the following research findings:

  • A study of 35,000 people found that walking or biking reduced the risk of developing sciatica by 33 per cent.
  • Physical activity, including walking, had better long-term outcomes than surgery.
  • Walking will reduce inflammation and pain

A number of additional studies have shown that the old sciatica treatment of bed rest actually does more harm than good. Nowadays, your doctor is much more likely to tell you to lace your walking shoes and hit the trail.

Here are 2 walking tips to help improve your shape and avoid sciatica pain.

  1. Engage your core muscles to support the spine.

Actively engaging your abdominal muscles will protect your sciatic nerve roots by minimizing the pressure on your spine. Stress and fatigue of these muscles increase considerably when incorrect walking is used. A weak core, in turn, may cause additional back pain and worsen your sciatica symptoms. Here’s how to correctly use your abdominal muscles:

  • Stand upright, man. Keep your head and shoulders tall and focus on a distance spot.
  • Just focus on your breathing. Rhythmic breathing helps keep your mind focused and alert while walking.
  • Tuck in your stomach. Take your stomach slightly to your body for the duration of your walk and keep your pace comfortable; it may be difficult to engage your abdominal muscles if you walk too fast.
  1. Shorten your stride to protect your sciatic nerve. 

Incorrect walking posture can compress your lumbar disks2 and irritate your sciatic nerve. In general, the initial contact of the foot, the length of the leg and the speed of walking must be considered in order to avoid sciatica pain.

Follow these indicators to correct the following steps:

  • Don’t reach out with your toes. Land between your midfoot and heel, then roll gently onto your toes and push off to the next step. This type of initial foot contact will naturally shorten your foot stroke, because it is difficult to roll your foot away from your body.
  • Just slow down. Slower pace usually means shorter steps. You should be able to hold a conversation while walking.

When you walk with the correct posture, the core abdominal and back muscles, as well as the hip, thigh and leg muscles, work in sync to prevent stress on the spine.

Are You Looking for Relief From Back and Sciatica? 

Pace Physical Therapy in San Jose, California specializes in back pain and sciatica relief and recovery therapies.  We pride ourselves on offering the best possible physical therapy available and going above and beyond for our patients. Our highly experienced physical therapist will work with you to improve your function and relieve your pain. We start by assessing the body as a whole. Oftentimes the cause of pain or an injury extends far beyond just the body part or muscle hurting. Without taking a comprehensive look at your entire self, we would be doing you a disservice in fully helping you heal and preventing future limitations. We then move on to fixing your areas of limitation.  Not all diagnoses are created equal. One person with low back pain may have completely different limitations than the next person. Your recovery program needs to be specific to what YOUR body needs and not just the typical exercise program that you can find online to and-aid the real issue. Just because your pain decreases or you can walk longer doesn’t mean that it is enough to get you functioning at the level you want to be. While this often signifies the end of care at your typical PT clinic we don’t stop providing guidance until we help you successfully meet every goal you set for yourself with us on day one. Contact us today to schedule your appointment!