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Pinched Nerve in Lower Back (4 Exercise Solutions)

By on October 21, 2013

Pain from a pinched nerve in lower back can be debilitating and may hinder you from moving around or doing your daily tasks.

When the back aches, normal day chores such as sitting before the computer or driving become arduous tests of pain endurance.

However, by exercising your muscles and undertaking both self and medical care, you can eliminate back pain and enjoy carrying out your daily activities.

This article will show you what you need to do in order to relieve this pain.

What is a Pinched Nerve in the Lower Back?

A pinched nerve in lower back occurs when the surrounding tissues apply too much pressure (compression) to the nerve located in the back area.

At times, the tissues applying this pressure might be cartilage or bone like in the case of the herniated spinal disc, which compresses the roots of the nerve.

In other cases, tendons or muscles can be the main cause.

The pressure results to inflammation of a nerve thus disrupting its function.

If the pinching of the nerve occurs for a short time, there will be no permanent damage; after the pressure is relieved, the functioning of the nerve returns to normal.

Nevertheless, if the pressure continues, nerve damage and permanent pain can result.

The compression or impingement of the nerve causes symptoms like tingling, numbness and burning in the nerve path.

The main causes of this compression include a herniated disc, poor posture, obesity, strenuous activities and prolonged sitting, among other causes.

The degree of injury to your nerve can vary from the temporary or minor damage to a permanent condition.

To avert further complications or damage, early treatment is imperative.

So, generally, a pinched nerve in your lower back takes place when compression or direct pressure injures or damages the sciatic nerve that runs from your back to the back of your legs.

The case of Joel from Boston, MA shows how debilitating a pinched nerve can be. For him, the pain was not just in the lower back, but it could drop to his knees as well.

He recounted a moment he attempted to pick up his dropped pen. The pain was more intense than it had been in the past.

As he tried to bend and pick the pen, the pain shot through the back of his left leg and he could feel the numbness extending to his foot.

Although he managed to pick his pen, he found it troublesome to walk around. The numbness made it hard for him to simply straighten his leg and walk uprightly.

Instead, he started limping like someone had shot him in the leg.

The condition caused Joel to raise a number of questions: “What could be happening to me, who should i call, what can I do, do I visit the emergency room, and will my condition require surgery?”

Like Joel, you could be asking yourself these questions and need answers that are real and helpful.

What Causes Pinched Nerve in Lower Back?

causes of a pinched nerve in lowerback

Image showing a bulging disc pressing on a nerve

1.Herniated disc

If you have symptoms similar to those described in the case of Jack above, chances are your lower back has a herniated disk.

A herniated disk is simply an inflamed (swollen) or bulging disc, which causes the pinching or impingement of the nerve root in your spinal cord.

The roots of the lower lumbar ultimately develop into the sciatic nerve that extends to your legs. Now, the inflammation of this nerve is called sciatica.

Often, sciatic also refers to the pain that result from the pinching of the sciatic nerve.

2. Obesity

Overweight and obesity arise from lack of energy balance. Energy balance refers to level where your energy in becomes equivalent to your energy out.

Energy in refers to the amount of calories or energy you obtain from drinks and food.

On the other hand, energy out refers to the amount of energy used by the body to carry out activities such as digestion, breathing and other physical activities.

To keep a healthy weight, the energy out and in do not need to balance exactly each day. Instead, the balance over time is what will help you to keep obesity at bay.

Actually, weight gain arises when the amount of energy in exceeds energy out over time. On the other hand, energy loss occurs when the energy out exceeds energy in over time.

Other causes of obesity and overweight are inactive lifestyle and an environment that does not support a healthy lifestyle.

For example, people spend numerous hours in front of the TV or computer working, doing school work, or engaging in leisure activities.

This can encourage an inactive lifestyle that may contribute to obesity and overweight.

So how does obesity cause a pinched nerve in your lower back? Well, obesity creates uneven distribution of weight across the body.

This may result to poor posture, which can lead to lower back pain as the muscles try to compensate for the resulting imbalance.

3. Prolonged Sitting

When you are sitting, the natural curve of your spine is distorted. This means the back muscles have to play a role in holding the back in shape since the natural curves of your spine are no longer lifting you against gravity.

Thus, prolonged sitting results to numbness, discomfort, and spine misalignment.

All this means that stationary time at the place of work can result to pinched nerve in the lower section of the back, tightened hip flexors, cardiovascular disease, shortened hamstrings and physical injuries.

4. Strenuous Activities & Vigorous Exercises

Activities like bending, lifting, or twisting in awkward positions and those that result to whole-body vibration (like truck driving over long distance), usually put people at the risk of developing backaches.

The risk is even higher if someone does such a task for a longer time. These activities strain the back muscles and pinch the nerve path, in the process.

Some people wear the back support belts though study reveals that such belts are only useful among individuals who currently have back pains.

Such belts provide little support for the back and may not prevent any back injuries.  Even using chairs, equipment, or desks that can’t support the back can still injure the nerves and cause pain in the lower back.

lower back pain during pregnancy

Woman experiencing pinched nerve in lower back during pregnancy

5. During Pregnancy

Expectant women are subject to lower back pain because of the forward redistribution of their body weight, the shifting of various abdominal organs, and the loosening of different ligaments in the pelvic region as the body prepares itself for delivery.

All these factors may interfere with the woman’s posture hence applying more pressure on the nerve path located in the lower back.

Study shows that taller women are more prone to this condition that short women.

Symptoms of Pinched Nerve around the Lower Back

1. Mild or Sharp Pain

Pain is a common symptom for this condition. Most causes lead to postural dysfunctions, which apply abnormal pressure on a disc located between vertebral bodies that ultimately result to tear and wear.

When this occurs, the affected area gets in touch with the nerve thus causing pain.

Similarly, muscle imbalance or a wrong pull of muscles resulting from the wrong twisting motion can cause impingement or abnormal pressure on the nerve.

This can cause mild pain in the lower back. If the nerve undergoes great compression or damage, the pain may even be sharp and excruciating.

You may encounter pain in the lower back when you try to stand up or while walking. This pain can be localized, radiating or diffused.

The nature and type of pain depends on the location of the pinched nerve and on the severity of the impingement.

2. Numbness & Tingling Sensation

You may also feel numbness in the lower back and this sensation may radiate to the lower parts. This is because the sciatic nerve extends from the back all the way to the region behind your legs.

Such numbness may make it difficult for you to move from one point to another. If you choose to sit down and then try to stand up, you may experience a lot of pain.

It is worth noting that lower back pain resulting from a pinched nerve does not occur overnight. It can arise from a continual posture habit or bad lifting, which gradually increases pressure on the nerve.

It takes a long time before this condition causes a nerve to be under intense pressure leading to numbness, pain, and the tingling sensation that can diffuse in various parts of your body (Brown, 2013).

Exercises to Relieve pain caused by Pinched Nerve in Lower Back

If you have lower back pain resulting from pinched nerves, you should try a number of pain relieving exercises.

Note that these exercises should only apply to the acute back pain (pain that can last for less than three months).

Chronic pain requires thorough medical treatment and not the exercises. Here are the exercises you should try (Cannone, 2012):

pinched nerve in lower back and thighs

Using side bends to relieve pinched nerve in lower back

1. Side bends

Look for space in your house or out in the field (not really big for dancing but just big enough to perform to stretch around).

Stand in an upright position and then put your hands on the hips while maintaining a straight posture. Now, gently stretch the lower back by bending the body to the left side.

Return in the initial position and try to bend to the right side as well. Repeat this 5 times and chances are pain in your lower back will start to fade away.

2. Twist

Sit down on the floor, possibly on a mat or carpet and stretch forth your legs while placing them at the shoulder width.

Now, place your left hand on the right knee and then pull the body forward to stretch the back muscles gently.

Hold on for about five seconds. Release your hand from the knee and place the right hand on your left knee followed by pulling the body forward gradually.

Hold this position for the next 5 seconds. Repeat the exercise 5 times.

hamstring stretch

Body posture while performing a hamstring stretch

3. Hamstring Stretch

While sitting on the floor, stretch your legs straight on the floor at the shoulder width. Now, lean in front and try to touch the toes with both your hands.

While doing this, you should feel your hamstrings stretching gently. Hold on for about 10 seconds and then sit up uprightly. Repeat this five times.

4. Superman

Poor posture or the uneven use of your left and right sides of your body can easily throw the spine out of whack.

If you want to restore the balanced tension, you should lie on the belly, straighten the knees and place your arms overhead.

Now go ahead and inhale while simultaneously lifting the left leg and the right arm. Hold for about two seconds and then exhale while you gently lower the leg and arm.

In the same way, lift your left arm and right leg and inhale at the same time. Repeat this 10 times per side.

Treatment of Back Pain Caused by Pinched Nerves in Lower Back

To treat the pinched nerve in lower back, you can apply the following methods. These include ice and heat, medication, chiropractic, and surgery (Biddulph, 2010).

Ice or heat

You can relieve the symptoms of pinched nerve in the lower back area by use of heat or ice. In the first 72 hours after the onset of the pain, it is recommended that you use ice.

The role of ice is to reduce inflammation, which may be irritating nerves in the spine. Heat raises blood flow and thus inflammation; however heat may help to relax the muscles after the 72 hours elapse.

Never apply any heat or ice pack directly on your skin. Instead, tie it in a thin towel and then apply it on the lower back for 15 minutes after every 2 hours.

Chiropractic

The chiropractors usually diagnose and provide treatment for all kinds of back pain and they focus on the proper functioning of the spine.

The adjustment or manipulation of the spine can cause immobile joints to start moving accordingly thus relieving excess spinal stress.

Studies by the American Chiropractic Association reveal that chiropractic care is not only effective but also safe when used to relieve lower back pain.

Medication

Different medical options help in the treatment of back pain resulting from pinched nerve. The first option aims at simply masking the pain and reducing inflammation.

Over the counter NSAIDs (Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs) like aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen aid in the reduction of both pain and inflammation.

If muscle spasms are aggravating your pinched nerve, you can seek prescription from a muscle relaxer.

Surgery

If most of the conservative treatments do not work, you can opt out for surgery. If a herniated disc causes your pinched nerve, a surgeon can trim off the offending section thus relieving the nerve’s pressure.

On the other hand, if the arthritic bone spurs exerts pressure on your nerve, a surgeon can eliminate the bone spur and relieve the pain.

Pinched Nerve in Lowerback Summary

Pinched nerve in the lower back refers to the compression of the sciatic nerve that stems from the spine and extends to the lower parts of the body.

The causes include strenuous work, pregnancy, obesity, prolonged sitting, herniated disc, and so on. The main symptoms for this condition are acute and chronic pain in the back, and numbness.

To relieve this pain, you can use exercises that stretch the back though they only treat the acute pain. Other effective treatment options are heat and ice, over the counter drugs, chiropractic and surgery.

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