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Christian Mason 05-23-2009 08:22 AM

Training a 65 year old with sciatic nerve issues
My mother is 65 and lives in the middle of nowhere NM. She does NOT have easy access to a gym or workout partner when I'm not around.

She also has a lifelong history of sciatic nerve issues and arthrithis issues. About ten years ago, when she lived in the same city with me, I had her doing some basic strength work. Pretty standard stuff, heavy compound movements. Squats were OK. Deadlifts would usually leave her with back spasms on subsequent days - and that was a decade ago.

She is currently in good health, and does some plodding cardio a few times a week. She has expressed an interest in adding some strength work into her programming.

This is a bit of a challenge for me, normally I'd suggest the standard, big simple lifts. But:

- She doesn't have the necessary gear

- She doesn't have someone to ensure that she's doing the movements correctly. Things like squats are great, but could also be a recipe for injury in her circumstances.

- While I'm sure her back will improve with strength work, doing so without injuring it is a real challenge.

She's open to spending a little money to get her hands on some weight (probably light-med DBs) and is not adverse to working hard.

Thomas Bailly 05-23-2009 10:25 AM

Re: Training a 65 year old with sciatic nerve issues
Have her spend the money on a good active release practicionner, or osteopath, rolfer, etc, whatever floats her boat, to resolve the sciatica issues first. Often times sciatica pain is an impingement of the sciatic nerve in the buttocks,piriformis muscle is often the guilty party ( somewhere around 20 % of folks have the sciatic nerve pass straight through the piriformis muscle ). Tight IT bands are big contributors also.Teach her some ilo tibial band stretches, and piriformis /glute stretches ( figure 4 type).
Adding contractions ( weight training) to an already compromised muscle group may not be the best route. Work on resolving the problem first then start with low rep CTG type BW stuff, see how it progress before adding any weight. Personally I'd go with the goal of using bodywork/stretches/ light activity (blood flow) to resolve sciatic issues, after that weight training may be appropriate.
Good luck, training family members can be a challenge without sciatic nerve issues!

Christian Mason 05-23-2009 04:02 PM

Re: Training a 65 year old with sciatic nerve issues
I appreciate the feedback. Unfortunately I don't think these are reasonable options for her given her current living circumstances.

I've gotten her eating Paleo(ish) and she drives 20 miles a few times a week to stock up on fruit and veggies. A full grocery trip is closer to an hour and a half drive. I don't think the hesitation with rolfing, active release and the like is so much money as her not having easy access to it.

I believe there is also some disc degeneration in her lower back, and she's very reluctant to try chiropractic and the like without having a full medical workout first :shrug:

It's pretty far from an ideal situation, but she does seem more open to suggestions than most.

Thomas Bailly 05-24-2009 06:27 PM

Re: Training a 65 year old with sciatic nerve issues
I went to massage therapy school in NM, you'd be surprised how many skilled( or less skilled...) body workers of various disciplines live out in the middle of nowhere NM, at least those that have'nt been abducted by aliens...:yikes:
they may just be hard to find

More importantly: if she has disc issues her first order of business should be to take care of that, it is highly likely that the disc issue is causing the sciatic pain. She may be feeling the pain in her butt or leg but the nerve originates in the lower lumbar/sacral area, any of the nerves above may be affected by disc degeneration or bulging and could also contribute to pain.( you didn't mention where she was feeling pain so I made some assumptions.)

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