Can Running Cause Sciatica? Guide to Sciatica Pain 2022
Sciatic pain is often gets mistaken as a diagnosis for an injury. However, sciatic pain is usually a symptom of a larger problem in the body. Luckily for most runners, a little patience and understanding can find the cause of the problem. This will allow you to get back into your training much quicker.
In this article, we discuss sciatica pain and help you answer the question – Can running cause sciatica pain?
What is Sciatic Pain?
Sciatic pain is when the L5, S1, and S4 in the vertebrae get compressed by muscles that swell. This ends up creating pressure on the nerves and causing the pain you may experience.
Since the sciatica is not linked to one specific injury or circumstance, it is often hard to find the root of the problem.
Because of this, the cause of sciatica can vary. However, the most common cause of this is when the nerves in the back start to compress the discs, causing them to protrude out.
This protrusion is the result of the discs trying to lubricate themselves. However, once compressed, they can end up pushing on the nerve, which can irritate the nerve path. In turn, causing the pain you may feel when walking or exercising.
While it is common in runners, sciatica is much more common in lifters.
Can I Get Sciatica From Running?
Even though it is not so common in runners, the constant pounding can cause this type of pain. However, runners typically get sciatica much quicker than lifters as they don’t have a lot of padding around the bum. High mileage runners often end up with tight muscles, and once they are overly tight, they start to squeeze on the discs. Thus, resulting in piriformis syndrome, which can lead to sciatic pain.
However, the good news is you are most likely not to get sciatica from running alone. Usually, the issue comes from something else and running just aggravates the problem more.
Because of this, runners need to quickly understand the root of the problem, so they can treat it accordingly.
Since most problems are caused by muscle pain, things like stretching can help you run through the problem. Stretching will help the muscles relax, in turn, helping to free the compressed nerve from pressure.
While you are stretching and getting regular massage, light running is tolerable for most people. However, it is recommended you keep training to easy jogging until the pain disappears.
Should I Stop Running if I Have Sciatica?
While running is possible, you may need to alter your training. Running too hard or too frequently can cause more pain and more compression of the nerves.
So, it is important to reduce your mileage by at least half and reduce the intensity of the runs. Otherwise, you may find yourself dealing with sciatica pain for a longer time.
Luckily when you reduce your mileage and intensity, you can also do a few other things to help speed up the recovery, such as:
Shorten your stride – When you shorten your stride you prevent the sciatic nerve from fully extending. This means it will also help reduce the impact on your lower back, as it will lessen the amount you bounce with every stride.
Change the surface you run on – If you are always running on asphalt, try to run on softer surfaces like grass or trails. By doing so, it will reduce the amount of compression in your back.
Stretch your hamstrings, glutes, and back – Because your body naturally protects itself, it is not uncommon for the muscles around the sciatic nerve to tighten up. By doing regular stretching (especially in the hamstrings) it can relieve pressure on your lower back and the sciatic nerve.
Instead of doing static stretching, try dynamic stretching. It will help the muscles warm up better and prepare the muscles you are going to use during running. However, after your run make sure you focus on static stretching or foam rolling.
Use heat before running – By applying heat to your lower back and buttocks, you can help increase blood flow and relieve any tightness the muscles have.
Will Running With Sciatica Make It Worse?
If you take it easy and stretch regularly, running won’t make sciatica more painful. However, it is recommended that you don’t push the training during the recovery period. Otherwise, you may find yourself in more pain than before.
As a general recommendation, it is wise to focus on recovery and rehabilitation instead of running. That means finding the root cause of the problem and following the correct recovery protocols.
If you are unsure what to do, visit a physiotherapist and they can set you in the right direction and help find the cause of the issue.
Whether you can keep running with sciatica will depend on how much pain you are dealing with and the cause of it. That is why it is important to find the root cause of the problem before you start running again.
How Do You Treat Sciatica?
Years ago complete rest was thought the be the best way to treat sciatica. However, this is no longer the case. Research has found that complete rest is not the best way to treat sciatica pain. Instead easy to moderate activity should be maintained. However, if you are experiencing worsening pain, you may need to include more recovery. Thus reducing inflammation.
Pain medication such as ibuprofen is widely chosen to treat sciatic pain. However, if muscle spasms are regular, you may need to use a muscle relaxant as well.
Alternatively, physiotherapy and physical therapy is widely recommended. However, this is only useful once the pain has improved. As the physiotherapist will design a rehabilitation program to prevent future injury.
In most cases, sciatica should heal within 10-12 weeks. However, if you are still struggling after this time you may need surgery. this only happens when non-surgical treatment has been unsuccessful. surgery then will help to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve and may require the removal of the abnormal disc material. However, this is the last resort for most people.