Cycling with Sciatica: Chiropractor's Tips To Ease Pain
Cyclists need to watch out for a variety of injuries, especially sciatica. This irritating condition alters your sciatic nerve causing it to send tingling sensations throughout your lower back. If not treated, it could lead to chronic muscle weakness, especially in your legs. Below you’ll find more information about sciatica and a handful of ways you can ease the pain.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve (situated in the lower back) sends shooting pain down your legs. Other side effects include a burning sensation, muscle weakness, and leg numbness. Most of the time, this condition only affects one side of the body. Sciatica will usually heal within two to four weeks.
What Causes Sciatica When Cycling?
This problem is common in cyclists for a few reasons.
One of the most frequent causes is because of certain hip movements. As you cycle, you move your legs back and forth. This causes your hips to adjust with them. If you overdo cycling or don’t stretch beforehand, it can stress the bones and muscles in this area. Eventually, it could wear down the bones causing them to press against the sciatic nerve.
Another reason is that your seat is too hard. If you cycle for hours, sitting on a hard seat can put pressure on your lower back. This can cause your spinal discs to push against your sciatic nerve.
6 Chiropractic Tips to Ease Sciatica Pain
Use Comfortable Seating
As mentioned above, hard seating can make it easier for your sciatic nerve to become irritated. You might want to change out your bike’s seating to prevent this.
To find the right saddle you’ll want to consider a few things. One is the shape. Saddles come in a variety of shapes to help cyclists stay comfortable. Wider options might be helpful for those who want good support when riding.
You’ll also need to make sure the seating is at the right height. If it’s not, it could make it hard for you to pedal which could put strain on your lower spine.
To find the right height, the saddle should come up to your hip when you stand next to it. You should also push down on the pedal with your heel. If the bike’s crank arm is aligned with the seat, you have the right height.
Keep in mind that while you need to stay comfortable when cycling, the seat shouldn’t be too soft. This will only make the problem worse because it won’t properly support your body and will push your lower vertebrae together.
Apply a Heating Pad
Heat can be very beneficial at healing sciatica pain. It will warm the area around your sciatic nerve helping your blood vessels to dilate. This will encourage them to send fresh nutrients and oxygen to the affected area so it heals. Besides this, heat can release tight muscles that might be pressing on this nerve.
You can apply a heating pad to the painful area and keep it on for about 20 minutes. However, you might want to wrap the pad in a towel to prevent it from burning your skin.
Stretching might seem like it would worsen the problem, but it doesn't. When you stretch, it loosens up tight muscles near your sciatic nerve, especially the piriformis muscle group. This won’t only relieve pain, but help your back stay flexible and prevent future sciatica attacks.
There are plenty of stretches you can do for sciatica. Some of these include knee-to-chest, back extensions, and standing hamstring.
While stretching is beneficial, if you feel intense pain when doing so, stop. This is your body telling you the stretches are too much. If you try to push through them, you risk worsening the problem or damaging other nerves and muscles.
Take a Break
Sometimes the best thing you can do for sciatica is rest. As hard as it might be, take a break from cycling for a few days. This will give your body time to recover and refresh itself. In fact, you might find that after taking a break you have more energy to cycle.
Get Chiropractic Adjustments
If your sciatica isn’t healing or you can’t stand the pain any longer, consider getting chiropractic adjustments. What a chiropractor does for sciatica will include a few things. One is with the help of various adjustments. They will mainly feel around your spine to see if there are any misalignments, such as a herniated disc, that could be causing your discomfort.
Once they do the examination, they will apply pressure to the affected area. One adjustment they might use is the diversified technique. To do this, they will apply short yet very fast pressure to the affected bone or joint. This will ensure that it’s aligned and can help restore its range of motion.
Some chiropractors might opt for ultrasound treatments. By running an ultrasound device over your lower back, it will send sound waves into it. These waves will invigorate your circulation allowing it to spread into damaged areas to heal them.
Over time, this will reduce pain and prevent muscle stiffness.
After your adjustment, your chiropractor could suggest massage therapy. Many chiropractors offer this as a way to boost the effects of your chiropractic adjustment. A massage won’t only relax your body, but help loosen tense muscles. Some massage types that might be done include deep tissue, Swedish, and hot stone.
Eat Food High in Magnesium
Magnesium is a mineral that can soothe irritated nerves. It’s not officially known how magnesium calms tense nerves and muscles, but it’s thought to do so because it reduces inflammation.
Some of the best magnesium-rich food to consume include:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Whole grains
While you can take a magnesium supplement, it’s best to get this mineral through natural sources.
Sciatica is a common problem in cyclists that could end up making it very difficult for you to ride your bike. These tips will ensure that you’re able to quickly heal sciatica and prevent it from happening.
About Dr. Brent Wells:
Dr. Brent Wells,D.C. is a licensed chiropractor who founded Better Health Chiropractic Anchorage in 1998. He is currently leading 10,000 Alaskans to more active and pain-free lifestyles without drugs or invasive surgeries. He brings a progressive and highly innovative approach to chiropractic care, physical rehab therapy and chiropractic massage. Dr. Wells continues to further his education with ongoing studies in spine conditions, neurology, physical rehabilitation, biomechanics, occupational ergonomics, whiplash, and brain injury traumatology. He is also a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians.