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Exercises to help improve Sciatica and back pain in riders

“Back pain, especially in the lower lumbar area, is one of the most common ailments world-wide”, explains Fitness Coach Marcel Andrä. “Luckily, in 95 percent of all cases the back pain occurs due to a functional disorder or imbalance, rather than there being any structural damage. The most common reasons for getting back pain stems from a lack of exercise, long hours of sitting and obesity.”

So why is it then the case that back pain and Sciatica are also very common in sports people and athletes? “Not getting enough exercise is first and foremost the main underlying issue. However, frequent repetition of movements, as required in some sports, can also play a major role. When you then also consider the often repetitive nature of our daily work routines and activities, we quickly see how back pain or Sciatica can become a major problem.”

Hip pain is most often felt in the groin area and can extend into one or both legs. Most forms ‘Sciatic pain’ are due to a pressing or constriction on one of the lumbar or sacral nerve roots. The result is often a dull or stinging pain in the buttocks, hips (often one-sided) and thighs. “The fascia in our lower lumbar region is located on a particularly demanding part of our body – our core” explains Marcel Andrä. “It constantly has to withstand the challenges and movements placed upon it – pushing, pulling and twisting in all directions. This is exactly what this part of the body needs in order to stay supple and flexible. However, things can quickly become problematic or painful with excessive, jerky or monotonous loads and stresses. Our lumbar fascia has a particularly large number of pain receptors contained within it. Ouch!”

The reason why Sciatica and back pain is such a common problem with riders is likely due to the region surrounding the sciatic nerve when in the saddle. This means that virtually any seated activity can prove to be painful and cause flare ups. However, when you add the rising movement that is created in the saddle, sometimes it can aggravate an already existing issue. When we experience pain, we lose the ability to maintain a supple and flexible seat – our body reacts by contracting and becoming tense, therefore making the problem worse.

Pain is a holistic symptom that can be triggered and influenced by a wide variety of causes, that in turn affect both the body and the mind. Marcel explains further. “It is important not only to fight the pain, but also to find the underlying cause as quickly as possible. It must be treated and eventually eliminated in a sustainable way, so as not to get into a vicious cycle of pain – tension – low blood circulation in the area – pain.” An unfit or untrained body can inevitably lead to shortened or poor functioning muscles and fascia. That is why it is extremely important for our back-health, that we develop a better understanding of our body and that we look after ourselves by staying fit, flexible and healthy.

“In order to remain pain-free for the long term, we need to maintain a certain balance. Varying our movements and balancing out the stresses placed upon our bodies from both sport and our daily routines, need to be integrated into our everyday lives – a further reason why it is important to have another sport or activity that balances out the movements when riding. When we talk about back-health, we are not talking about higher, faster, further, longer – we want variety and regularity. Better to be regular, controlled and moderate with our exercise routine rather than irregular and exaggerated.”

The following three exercises can help relieve and prevent pain in the hip and lower back area. Naturally these are not miracle cures and they may not be right for every rider, but they definitely form the basis of good back health fitness. Should you have an existing known health issue, or should you already experience back pain, then please consult a doctor or therapist before starting these exercises.

Would you like to get more support and individual exercises to become as supple as you expect your horse to be? Become a DressurFit member now to get even more! Join our programme now by clicking here!

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