Back pain can be unbearable, keeping you from living your best life. However, we’ve got some great news for you: Nerve glides for your legs will help reduce your back pain or sciatic pain and will also help increase your range of motion. 

Back Pain vs. Sciatica

Nerve Glides for Your Legs: Sciatica and back pain

Back pain, specifically, lower back pain and sciatica are two different conditions. However, due to the similarities in their symptoms, the two are often confused.

Back pain is a general term for pain that can occur anywhere along your spine, from your tailbone all the way up to the base of your neck. It can be acute (short-term). It lasts a few days to a few weeks and tends to resolve on its own with self-care with no residual loss of function. Back pain can also be chronic (long-term). This is when pain persists for 12 weeks or longer, even after an initial injury or underlying cause of the back pain has been treated.

Back pain can range in intensity from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp sensation that can leave you incapacitated.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, approximately 80% of adults experience low back pain at some point in their lives. Furthermore, it is the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed workdays in the U.S.

Back pain has three main classifications:

1.Referred Pain

This type of pain is a dull, throbbing pain that can vary in intensity. In some cases, the pain may move around to different parts of your back. Referred pain can be caused by a structural injury or a degenerative disease of the discs in your spine.

2. Axial Pain

This type of pain can be caused by a strain in your back muscles. Just like referred pain, it can also be dull and throbbing. This type of pain may also come and go at certain times of the day.

3. Radicular Pain

This type of pain is triggered by disc compression, inflammation or other problems that can cause “pinching” of a spinal nerve root. When the nerve root is “pinched,” you will feel searing pain along the nerve root which can extend out along your arms or down into your legs.

Sciatica is classified as radicular pain. 

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body. Lumbar radiculopathy is the medical term for sciatica. 

Sciatica is a term used to describe symptoms of pain, numbness, and/or weakness that radiate along the sciatic nerve which starts from your lower back to your buttocks and down to your leg. 

As many as 40% of people will get sciatica during their lifetime and it becomes more frequent as you get older.

The most common cause of sciatica is a disc problem, such as a herniated disc that is pressing against a nerve root. Sciatica can also occur when a disc degenerates and releases inflammatory proteins that irritate the adjacent nerve.

Sciatica is a symptom of an underlying condition and not a diagnosis in itself. In addition, symptoms may be felt in different areas of your leg or foot depending on where the sciatic nerve roots are compressed.

Other symptoms of sciatica may include the following:

  • You have pain that gets worse with movement.
  • You feel numbness or weakness in your legs or feet typically felt along your sciatic nerve pathway. When sciatica is severe, you may experience loss of feeling or movement in the affected area.
  • You may feel “pins and needles” involving painful tingling in your feet or toes.
  • In rare cases, you may experience incontinence for those who suffer from cauda equina syndrome (CES).

What are Nerve Glides for Your Legs?

When your nerves get injured from trauma, surgery, or repetitive motion, they lose their agility to slide within their sheaths when you move. This causes pain and reduced mobility.

Nerve glides are exercises that aim to restore the mobilization of the peripheral nerve. Nerve glide exercises can help stretch nerves carefully to reduce inflammation or compression and ultimately allow the nerves to glide normally.

What Nerve Glide Exercises are Applied to Help Relieve Back Pain and Sciatica?

1.Seated Sciatic Nerve Glide

Sit in a comfortable chair strong enough to support you as you move. Sit with your back straight and your shoulders down and relaxed. Start with your knees bent at 90 degrees and both of your feet flat on the floor. Then, slowly lift and straighten your injured leg. Go as far as you can without causing pain. It’s okay to feel a gentle tugging down the back of your leg. When you feel this, you should not go beyond this point. Slowly lower your leg back to the starting position and complete 15 leg raises. Do this up to five times a day. As your symptoms ease, try pointing and flexing your foot as you raise your leg, so your toes point up to the ceiling (as shown in the video). This will help increase the nerve glide.

2. Side-Lying Femoral Nerve Glide

Click here to watch how it’s done

Lie on your side and bring your top leg behind you. Try to reach for your foot and bend your foot towards your buttock. Let your hip extend behind you to create a stretch in the groin. Bend your neck forward and backward slowly and repeatedly.

Why Should You Consider Nerve Glides for Your Legs?

These lower extremity nerve glides, when combined with traditional physical therapy can reduce sciatic pain effectively. It may also improve the range of motion in your hips.

Are There Risks Involved When You do Nerve Glide Exercises?

Nerve gliding carries a few risks but as long as you don’t push your body too far, this can help ease your pain considerably. Just remember that these exercises shouldn’t hurt when you perform them.

The best way to make sure that nerve glides for your legs are the best treatment for your back pain and/or sciatica, you need to consult your doctor who is most qualified to know what is causing your nerve pain. If your nerve damage is more severe, nerve gliding may make your symptoms worse.

Vigor Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation is a therapist-owned physical and occupational therapy practice that provides superior care and patient-centered service.

If you are suffering from back pain or sciatica, our therapists will create a program integrated with nerve gliding exercises tailored specifically for your needs.

If you have any questions or if you would like to call us, email us, or visit our clinic, you can contact us here.