Tai Chi Exercises for the Sciatica Nerve in the Back

Originally developed as an ancient Chinese mode of self-defense, tai chi is now known as a gentle and graceful form of exercise. Its flowing series of movements are performed with focus and deep breathing. Tai chi is effective at relieving stress and a variety of other health issues including the painful nerve condition sciatica.

Causes of Sciatica

Your sciatic nerve travels from your lower back through your hips and down the back of each leg. Sciatica results from a compressed or irritated sciatic nerve, usually caused by a herniated disk or bone spur. Symptoms typically manifest on one side of the body and can be severe. They include pain, tingling numbness and inflammation.

How Can Tai Chi Help with Sciatica?

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The relaxed and circular movements of tai chi encourage gentle opening of the joints and muscle stretching. This type of exercise can strengthen your lower back and reduce nerve root compression, relieving the pain associated with sciatica. According to the philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine, blockages of chi, or energy flow, within the body can cause pain and illness. Tai chi is believed to improve the flow of chi. While doing tai chi, you should avoid jerking, bouncing or excessive twisting movements.

Supporting Research

A number of studies have shown that tai chi provides physical and mental health benefits. This growing body of research includes a study on tai chi and chronic pain that was featured in the 2012 Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine journal. According to the authors of the study, tai chi contributes to chronic pain management in three major areas: adaptive exercise, mind-body interaction, and meditation.

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Sciatica can be a complex condition that requires a variety of interventions. It is always wise to consult with your physician regarding your plan of care. If tai chi or other self-care measures do not completely relieve your sciatica symptoms, you may require medications or a surgical intervention. Your health care provider can provide guidance and advise you on additional therapies suitable for your individual condition.