I am 73. I have osteoporosis, a slipped disc and sciatica in my right leg. I recently had an epidural which hasn’t really done much to improve the pain. Can you recommend any exercises? Would Pilates or any other classes be of any benefit?
Our spines aren’t simply there to keep our skeletons upright, they also house and protect much of the body’s nervous system, which is one good reason why back problems can be disproportionately painful. If any part of your back is injured, there’s a high chance that some nerve or other will be irritated or trapped as a result.
“Slipped disc” can give the misleading impression that something has literally slipped out of place and needs to be physically or surgically pushed back in. In reality the shock-absorbing disc is likely to have torn and leaked or bulged out a bit, setting off irritation of tissues and nerves around it, including that unpleasant “sciatic” pain that can go right down one leg.
It sounds as though your back has been painful for a while. As you have mentioned that you have osteoporosis, you and your GP need to be confident that the source of your pain is indeed a slipped disc, rather than a spine fracture. I am sure this will have been checked out, so now may be a good time to try some self-help in the form of exercise.
Here are two simple strengthening exercises you can do at home. They are not guaranteed to cure your pain, but are worth a try (it may be some weeks before you feel any benefit).
Lower stomach: lie face down on a mat, towel or rug, your head resting on your hands. Give a little cough and when you feel your lower stomach muscle (below the tummy button) tighten, suck it upwards hard, imagining you are pulling it up to your spine. Hold, count to 5, then relax. Try this 10 times every morning and evening. Each week increase the length of hold by 5 seconds, until you can hold the muscle for 30 seconds or more. It is extremely important that you teach yourself to breathe normally while you are holding the muscle in, which may be hard at first. Click here for the full exericse
Back: Lying face down, place your palms on the floor, finger tips pointing forwards, just wide of your ears. Elbows should be neatly in by your sides. Breathe in and as you breathe out, push down with your hands and try to lift your chest off the ground, eyes down so you do not move your neck backwards. Hold the position as high as you can (it may only be a few centimetres off the ground at first), count 5, then carefully lower down. Repeat 10 times. Do this exercise three times a week. Click here for the full exericse
With your particular conditions I would not suggest a general Pilates class, but some one-to-one “clinical” Pilates sessions may be another way of helping to ease your pain.