Are you Having Shooting Pain Down your Leg? Here’s What You Should Do About it!

By Jonathan Zaid, PT, DPT, Center Manager at Drayer Physical Therapy

Did you wake up one morning and start noticing sharp, shooting pain into your buttocks, down the back of your leg or even into your foot? Has that pain continued to progress and bother you during your daily activities? Does the pain bother you while you are sitting, driving or even walking? You just can’t seem to shake the pain away?

If so, you are probably experiencing radicular pain called sciatica. Sciatica is a common diagnosis that is affecting millions of Americans daily and causing disability in the workplace. Sciatica is commonly seen in people between the ages of 25 to 45 years old.

So, what is Sciatica? it’s when your sciatic nerve is being compressed by another spinal structure, usually causing pain in your low back, on one side of your buttock and or down the back of your leg. It can cause changes in sensation and muscle power of your leg, making you feel weak or unsteady. Sciatic nerve irritation usually occurs at the L5 or S1 level of the spine.

Each individual can present differently and not all sciatic cases are the same. Additionally, sciatic symptoms can present due to a number of causes.

One of the most common reasons why we see pain down the leg/sciatica is due to sitting and poor posture. There’s the new saying “sitting is the new smoking”, my belief isn’t that sitting is as hazardous as it sounds but the fact we don’t move enough! Exercise is medicine. If your joints and body get “stuck” in the same sitting position for 8-10 hours a day guess what takes a big brunt of that force, your spine. Over time your discs become compressed for prolonged periods of time (like sitting at your desk for 8-10 hours) without moving and they can become irritated and compress your sciatic nerve causing shooting pain down your leg. Nerves need movement, space, and blood flow, without that they can cause pain. One of the best ways to relieve sciatica symptoms is through repeated extension movements. By getting your spine into an upright position it takes pressure off the nerves and discs in your back.

So, what can you do if you’re experiencing pain down your leg? Well, besides changing your posture and decreasing the frequency of time you spend sitting in one position, try these exercises below designed to get your spine into extension safely. Each exercise has a different goal but is geared towards helping you move better and more efficiently. Remember, movement is medicine!

  1. Prone Press up

Begin by lying down on your stomach with your hands in a push-up position. From there, extend your arms and elbows while trying to keep your stomach and hips flat on the table to get an arch through your back. Your symptoms should not increase down the affected leg. Slight discomfort in the back may be experienced and should go away with continued repetition. Perform this exercise 3 sets of 10 repetitions multiple times a day.

  1. Supine Sciatic Nerve Glide

Start by lying on your back, bring your hip to about 90 degrees. From there grab behind your knee and extend your leg towards the ceiling. A stretch should be felt behind the leg and knee. Perform this exercise 3 sets of 10 repetitions multiple times a day.

  1. Bridges

Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the table. Bring your belly button in and squeeze your glutes. From there lift your hips towards the ceiling and lower back down. If pain or discomfort is felt in the hamstrings or the back try squeezing your glutes or belly button in harder. Perform this exercise 3 sets of 10 repetitions daily.

  1. Bird-dogs

Start on your hands and knees. Next, bring your belly button in to engage your core. From there, raise one arm up towards the ceiling and lift the opposite leg. Repeat on the opposite side. Make sure to stay balance throughout this exercise and try to avoid having your hips drop to one side. Perform this exercise 3 sets of 10 daily.

  1. See a Physical Therapist

Physical therapists are trained movement specialists that can provide conservative treatment for sciatica-like pain. Research has shown that early conservative care for pain results in better and faster results than surgery or opioid/pain medication. A physical therapist will perform a thorough evaluation to determine which areas of your body are tight or weak, causing movement dysfunction and sciatica pain. A physical therapist will provide a personalized program for you to get you feeling better faster!

You can see a physical therapist right away without a prescription from a medical doctor via direct access. You can find Jonathan Zaid and Drayer Physical Therapy through the betterPT website and betterPT mobile app in addition to hundreds of other quality clinics in your area. The longer you wait to receive treatment for your pain, the longer it will take to heal. Therefore, make sure to seek treatment out as soon as you start feeling symptoms to get yourself feeling BETTER faster.


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