Stick a Ball In Your Bum Before you get on!
So in the third and final email in our Sciatica focus we are going to go through an exercise to do to release your Sciatic Nerve and also an exercise you can try before you get on and ride.
So firstly, Sciatic Nerve Flossing-I know it’s as sexy as it sounds!
Sciatic Nerve flossing helps to stretch and release any areas that the Sciatic Nerve may have become stuck . I’ll be honest start gently with these and only do 8-10 per leg per day for the first week and work up to 20 as if your Sciatic Nerve is really stuck it can get quite upset!
• Sit in a chair with the feet flat on the floor.
• Straighten the one leg and tuck your chin into the chest.
• Lower the leg and look up towards the ceiling.
Now finally we are going to do a little exercise you can do at home as part of your routine, but I also like to do it just before I ride to help relax my Piriformis (the muscle next to your sciatic nerve). Riding with a tight Piriformis can make it difficult to have a light seat.
So you are going to take a ball (either a spiky physio ball, hard lacrosse ball or a tennis ball) and sitting on a hard chair or the floor place it under your bum cheek. Then you are just going to roll around on it to help release the muscle –sometimes you feel a pop so don’t be alarmed if you do! Then take it out and before you go to the other side see how different the sides of your bum feel-weird huh? The do the other side so you are even.
Let me know if you try this and if any of these exercises have helped!
So, in the Spirit of Black Friday I have decided to offer a little insight into some of the programmes I do with my private clients!
As back pain is a very common and frustrating problem among Equestrians I am offering my Back Pain Management programme for Just £5!
So last week we started with some anti-spasm exercises to try and eliminate any muscle spasm in the glute area.
Have you been doing your homework? If not please start them for at least a week before adding in the stretches. As I mentioned last week stretching a muscle in spasm will potentially make it worse so to be on the safe side we must treat any potential spasm before we move onto stretching.
If you have keep it up and add on these stretches. Both of these will stretch directly the muscles surrounding the sciatic nerve. It is important to try and relax as much as possible – I know that can be difficult if it hurts so take some long, slow and deep breaths as you stretch it out.
Starting on all fours, take your right leg diagonally underneath you, send your left leg back as far as it will go. Keep your hips square. You can also lean forward to increase the stretch. Hold for 60 secs
Figure 4 Stretch.
Bend both knees, cross your right ankle over your left knee and lift your left leg up, taking hold behind the knee. Try to keep your shoulders relaxed. Repeat other side. Hold for 60 secs
Try and do these stretches every day if you are suffering, after doing the anti spasm exercises.
The more I speak to Equestrians regarding their fitness the more I meet who suffer with Sciatica.
Now I’ll be honest Sciatica is pretty common in general. As the Sciatic nerve runs parallel to the Piriformis which is one of our hip muscles. Due the increasingly sedentary nature of our lives, sitting down all day causes tightness in the front of our hips as they are shortened all day and weakness in the back as they are lengthened and therefore not activated all day.
If you do yard work all day, the constant bending over or poor posture when standing/teaching etc. can also create the same issues.
Then when we ride we actively try to stretch out and use our hip flexors, so depending on our particular problem we are either asking a weak muscle or muscle in spasm to work or trying to stretch out a long and weak muscle. Either way recipe for disaster i.e.pain in the bum literally!
Any tightness, weakness or impingement of our hip flexors particularly our piriformis will inhibit our Sciatic Nerve as it is intertwined between them.
Now without giving a thorough assessment I can’t tell you which side of the coin you are on whether that be weak, tight or in spasm and to be honest even the most advanced of physios will not be able to give you a 100% answer. So, what I would suggest is working from the safest possible point and that is to try to release any muscle spasm first. That is because treating with a muscle release will either a) release the spasm ready for stretching or b) if it is not in spasm it will do no harm. However trying to stretch a muscle in chronic spasm will actually make the problem worse! So safest option first.
So to take out any potential chronic muscle spasm in the piriformis I recommend to my clients an anti spasm exercise called 4 Sign.
This can be done either seated or lying down.
Cross your leg over the opposite knee ensuring that your ankle bone is on the outside of that knee. Press up into your hand with your leg at 20% of Maximum Effort for 20 seconds, rest and repeat Do this 4 times each side 4 x per day
This should be done for at least a fortnight before moving onto stretching. So I’m not going to tell you about that yet as I don’t want you jumping ahead!
As Equestrians we all know that we need good core stability, and if you ever ask for a good way to improve it you will more than likely get told to plank.
The Plank is a great exercise for core stability however is it really riding specific?
Don’t get me wrong I am aware that to be completely riding specific you would need to do it on your horse…………………..anyone?
However there are ways to make things more specific for your sport by considering the movements, actions and muscles at work whilst you are performing.
In riding we use our core stability to absorb the movement of our horse (i.e. to stop us wobbling around) but we are also doing a lot of other things with our legs and hands at the same time.
So, we use our core but we are not on a stable surface and our arms and legs don’t stay still either!
Which is where I think the Plank starts to look a bit basic. If you are new to core training or new to riding then a stationary plank is a great place to start but for those of us a little later in the game it’s time to up the ante with our Planks!
So what are we trying to achieve?
Firstly we want a stable core whilst moving arms and legs.
So how about lifting opposite arms and legs whilst maintaining a stable plank? You could also try moving the lifted arm and leg away from you too.
Then we want a stable core whilst the ground underneath is not stable.
If you have a gym ball try doing a plank with your forearms on the ball, and if you want an extra challenge circle your arms as if stirring a pot.