sciatica is a common condition characterized by pain, numbness, and weakness in the lower back, buttocks, and legs. It occurs when the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back down to the legs, is compressed or irritated. The pain can be debilitating and can significantly affect a person’s quality of life.
Many people with sciatica are hesitant to exercise or engage in physical activity because they believe it could exacerbate their symptoms. They might think, “Is walking on a treadmill good for sciatica?” However, walking on a treadmill can be a safe and effective form of exercise for people with sciatica. In this article, I will help you explore the benefits of treadmill walking for sciatica and some tips for getting started.
Benefits of Walking on a Treadmill for Sciatica
Walking is a low-impact exercise that can help strengthen the muscles in the legs, hips, and lower back. When done on a treadmill, walking can provide several benefits for people with sciatica, including:
- Improved circulation: Walking on a treadmill can improve blood flow and promote healing in the affected area. Improved circulation can also reduce inflammation and swelling, which can help alleviate pain.
- Improved mobility: Sciatica can cause stiffness and limited mobility in the affected area. Walking on a treadmill can help improve flexibility and range of motion, which can help reduce pain and discomfort.
- Low-intensity exercise: Walking on a treadmill is a low-impact exercise, which means it puts less stress on the joints and can be less painful than high-impact exercises like running or jumping. This can be especially beneficial for people with sciatica, who may experience pain when engaging in more strenuous forms of exercise.
- Reduced load on the spine: Walking on a treadmill can help reduce stress on the spine by promoting good posture and alignment. By keeping the spine in a neutral position, the pressure on the sciatic nerve can be reduced, which can help alleviate pain.
- Increased calcium deposition: People with sciatica try and avoid movements and exercise and thus lose a lot of calcium deposition from the bones. Walking on the treadmill as pain permits can prove beneficial for bones and the overall musculoskeletal system.
Adverse effects of walking on a treadmill:
It is important to note that walking on a treadmill may not be suitable for everyone with sciatica and can potentially worsen the condition for some. Some potential ill effects of walking on a treadmill in sciatica may include:
- Increased pain: Walking on a treadmill can cause a jarring motion to the spine, which can increase the pressure on the sciatic nerve and lead to an increase in pain and discomfort.
- Aggravation of symptoms: Walking on a treadmill may also cause the muscles in the lower back and hips to tense up, which can further irritate the sciatic nerve and exacerbate symptoms.
- Increased risk of injury: Walking on a treadmill may increase the risk of falls or other injuries, which can be particularly dangerous for people with sciatica who may already have compromised balance and mobility.
Tips for Walking on a Treadmill with Sciatica:
If you have sciatica and are interested in incorporating walking on a treadmill into your exercise routine, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Start slowly: Begin with short walking sessions and gradually increase the time and intensity as you build up your fitness level. It’s important not to overdo it, as too much too soon can aggravate your symptoms.
- Use proper form: When walking on a treadmill, it’s important to maintain good posture and form. Keep your back straight, shoulders relaxed, and head up. Avoid leaning forward or backward, which can put additional strain on the lower back. Also, avoid walking on the incline mode initially as that can overstretch the sciatic nerve as you take longer steps.
- Stretch before and after: Before starting your treadmill workout, warm up your muscles with some gentle stretching. After your workout, take some time to cool down and stretch again. This can help reduce muscle tension and improve flexibility.
- Listen to your body: If you experience any pain or discomfort while walking on the treadmill, stop immediately. It’s important to listen to your body and not push yourself too hard. If you’re experiencing significant pain or discomfort, speak with your healthcare provider before continuing your exercise routine.
Also Read: How to Massage Sciatica Trigger Points?
Walking on a treadmill can be a safe and effective form of exercise for people with sciatica. It can help improve circulation, flexibility, and core strength, all of which can contribute to a reduction in symptoms.
However, it’s important to start slowly, use proper form, stretch before and after your workout, and listen to your body. As always, if you have any concerns or questions about incorporating treadmill walking into your exercise routine, speak with your healthcare provider.
- Kim, H. J., Kim, S. S., & Lee, S. K. (2015). Effect of treadmill exercise on the motor recovery of a sciatic nerve injury rat model. Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 27(1), 121-124.
- Noormohammadpour, P., Karimi, N., Farahbakhsh, F., Mansournia, M. A., & Kordi, R. (2017). The effect of an exercise intervention on lumbar spine posture and mobility in individuals with simple mechanical low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 18(1), 466.
- Kim, T. H., Yoon, S. J., Lee, B. H., Jung, J. Y., & Kwon, H. J. (2014). Effects of treadmill exercise on neuropathic pain and spasticity in rats with spinal cord injury. Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 26(6), 831-834.
- Turi, B. H., Davis, K. G., & Marras, W. S. (2015). Biomechanical assessment of treadmill interventions on individuals with chronic low back pain. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 25(1), 127-136.
- “Sciatica: Exercises to avoid” by Mayo Clinic (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sciatica/in-depth/sciatica-exercises/art-20048074)
- “Exercises to avoid” by Healthline https://www.healthline.com/health/back-pain/sciatica-exercises-to-avoid
Hi, I am Parth Chowtia, an MSK/Sports Physiotherapist with a degree in Sports Medicine from Leeds Beckett University, UK. I have five years of experience working with top brands and like to share guides on preventing and managing injuries resulting from sports and exercise participation at all ages and levels of ability.