If you're one of the millions of people who suffer from sciatica, then you know how debilitating and frustrating the condition can be. Many people find that they need to make significant changes to their lifestyle in order to manage the pain and improve their quality of life.
Exercising is often part of this regimen, and fortunately, there are a number of exercises that have been shown to be particularly helpful for those with sciatica.
In today's blog post, we'll take a look at five exercises that are commonly recommended for sciatica sufferers. We'll also provide videos and pictures demonstrating how to do each exercise safely and effectively. So if you're looking for some relief from your sciatica pain, read on!
What is Sciatica?
Before we dive into the exercises, let's quickly review what sciatica is and what causes it.
Sciatica is a condition that results from compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. This nerve runs from the lower back all the way down the leg, and when it becomes compressed or irritated, it can cause a variety of symptoms, including pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness.
Sciatica is often caused by a herniated disc or spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spine), but it can also be brought on by pregnancy, muscle imbalances, or other factors.
Can Exercise Help with Sciatica?
Now that we know a little bit more about sciatica let's answer the question: can exercise help?
The short answer is yes! Exercise is often recommended as part of a treatment plan for sciatica, and there is research to support its efficacy. One study found that a 12-week exercise program significantly reduced pain and improved function in those with sciatica. Another study showed that an 8-week program of aerobic exercise and muscle strengthening helped to minimize disability and improve the quality of life in people with sciatica.
But, the duration and type of exercise vary from one individual to another. That's why it's crucial to work with a physical therapist or other healthcare professionals to create an exercise program that is tailored to your specific needs and goals.
In case you want to try some exercises on your own, we've put together a list of five exercises that are commonly recommended for those with sciatica. Still, keep in mind to check with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program.
How Often to Stretch for Sciatica?
Stretching is often recommended as a way to relieve pain and improve function in those with sciatica. One study found that a 6-week program of daily stretches helped to reduce sciatica pain significantly.
In another study, people with sciatica who did stretches three times per day for eight weeks reported less pain and disability than those who didn't stretch at all.
So, how often should you stretch if you're hoping to relieve your sciatica pain? The answer may vary depending on the severity of your symptoms and how much relief you're looking for. However, a good starting point is to do stretches every day, or at least most days of the week.
When stretching for sciatica, it's essential to focus on the muscles that are most likely to be tight or irritated, which include the hamstrings, hip flexors, and glutes. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times. Remember to breathe deeply as you stretch, and never force your body into a position that feels painful.
Top 5 Exercises for Sciatica - Best Exercises for Sciatica Pain Relief
When you are looking for exercises for sciatica pain, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, it is important to find exercises that stretch and strengthen the muscles that support your spine.
Second, it is important to choose exercises that do not put additional pressure on your spine or irritate the sciatic nerve. And third, it is important to focus on quality over quantity when doing these exercises – meaning, don’t try to do too many at once, or you could risk further injury.
With all of that said, here are five of the best exercises for sciatica pain relief. Read on to learn about five specific exercises that can help.
1.) Single Knee to Chest Stretch
For this exercise, you need to be lying down with your knees propped up. You can do this on the floor or on a sturdy bed or a couch. Here's how you should do this stretch:
Step 1: Lie down on the floor, bed, or couch.
Step 2: Bend both of your knees with your feet touching the ground (or bed or couch).
Step 3: Pick a side you want to stretch and bring that knee up towards your chest.
Step 4: Keep your other feet touching the ground or bed or sofa, wherever you are doing your exercise, but bent up just to kind of relax your back a little bit.
Step 5: Then put your hands underneath your thigh (the one near your chest) to bring your knee as far to your chest as you can, as comfortably as you can. Keep your hands underneath your thigh.
Step 6: Pull your toes towards you in to what's a called a dorsiflexion position.
Step 7: Straighten your leg by moving it towards you while keeping your hands under your thigh and your knee towards your chest the whole time. Your leg's not going to get fully straight, especially if you have sciatic nerve issues. And as you try to straighten your leg up, you might start to feel your legs shaking. It's normal as it is that stretch you are looking for. It means that you are working the muscles surrounding your sciatic nerve.
Step 8: You can do a slight pause at the top, but slowly bring your leg down again by bending your knee.
Step 9: Repeat this motion of bending the knee and extending it for about ten times like a gliding motion. Don't do more than ten because you do not want to irritate your nerves. If you feel pain or a lot of discomfort even before reaching ten, stop and remember to just do it up to your comfort level, and you don't want it to be painful or hurting.
If you think you can do more, you can do this exercise a couple of times a day, but if it is your first time, you might just want to do it once a day and see how you feel afterward.
2.) Double Knee to Chest Stretch
This is a modified version of the single knee to chest stretch. It involves bringing both knees up towards your chest at the same time. Once again, you can do this exercise on the floor or on a bed or couch. Here's how it's done:
Step 1: Lie down on your back on the floor or bed or couch with both of your knees bent and feet touching the ground (or bed/couch).
Step 2: Place your hands on each thigh, near your knees.
Step 3: Use your hands to bring both knees up towards your chest as far as you comfortably can.
Step 4: Hold this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then slowly lower your legs back down to the starting position.
Step 5: Repeat two to three times.
3.) Supine Hamstring Stretch with Strap - for Sciatica
This next exercise is a traditional hamstring stretch using a stretch strap. But if you don't have a stretch strap, you can be creative and use alternatives like a pet leash or jump rope. Just put a little rope at the end, or you can wrap it around and hold both ends. Unlike other exercises, this one aims to keep your legs straight the entire time.
Step 1: Get a yoga mat and lie down on the floor.
Step 2: Make a loop in your strap and place it under the ball of your right foot. Hold the two ends of the strap with each hand.
Step 3: Get both of your legs straight all the way down. You can keep the left leg propped up by bending that knee if you want.
Step 4: Slowly and gently pull the strap to bring your right leg up without bending your knee. If you let it bend, you are not getting the stretch we want for this exercise.
Step 5: If it starts to bend, bring your leg down a bit and straighten it up again.
Step 6: Bring it up again as far as you can comfortably and hold that position for about 30 seconds.
Step 7: Do some deep breathing while it's up and slowly bring your leg down.
Step 8: If you think you can do more, repeat it two more times.
4.) Supine Piriformis Stretch
This exercise stretches the piriformis muscle, which is a small muscle located deep in the hip area. It's often tight in people with sciatic nerve pain and can contribute to sciatica symptoms. Here's how it's done:
Step 1: Lie down on your back with both legs flat on the ground and feet together.
Step 2: Bring your right knee up towards your chest and place your right hand on your thigh, just above your knee.
Step 3: Use your left hand to grab hold of your right ankle and bring that leg across your body towards the left side as far as you can comfortably go without causing pain or discomfort. You should feel a stretch in your buttocks on the right side. If you don't feel any stretch, bring your right leg a bit closer to your chest.
Step 4: Hold the stretch for 30 seconds to 1 minute, and then slowly release your leg back to the starting position.
Step 5: Repeat with the other leg and do two to three sets with each leg.
5.) Lower Trunk Rotations
This is one of the best exercises for sciatic nerve pain relief. It is called lower trunk rotations and has many variations. The variation that we will do today is lower trunk rotations in a seated position.
Step 1: Begin by sitting on the floor and choosing a leg that you want to stretch.
Step 2: Lift the leg you want to stretch, bend it up, and place it over the other leg. The leg under your bended knee should be straight.
Step 3: Start twisting your body so that the elbow is opposite the side of your bended knee and goes beyond that knee.
Step 4: Place your elbow at the side and outer part of the bent leg and feel the stretch in the leg and your trunk area. If it causes you discomfort or pain, stop doing the stretch and rest.
Step 5: If you think that the stretch feels okay to you, hold that position for about 30 seconds and do three sets on each side.
This might feel great for some persons with sciatica, piriformis, or even back discomfort. However, it differs from person to person. If you feel any discomfort or pain at any point of any exercise, stop and relax.
Bonus Exercises for Sciatica on Youtube
Are you looking for other exercises for sciatica nerve pain relief? Check out these excellent three more great exercises that can help.
1. Figure Four Stretch Lying Down
This stretch is also a supine type of exercise for sciatica that can help stretch the gluteus medius and minimus muscles and the piriformis muscle. Here's how you do this stretch:
Step 1: Lie down on the floor, couch, or on your bed and bend both of your knees.
Step 2: Take the leg that you want to stretch and cross it over the other leg. Your ankle should be directly on top of the other leg and not on top of the knee. The reason this is called a figure four stretch is that your legs will form a figure four shape.
Step 3: Hold this position for 30 seconds and do three sets on each side.
Step 4: If you want a little bit more stretch, move the heel of your foot (the one touching the floor) towards you, sliding it closer to your body.
Step 5: If that isn't enough of a stretch, you can take both of your hands, grab that leg and gently pull it towards your body.
2. Knee to Opposite Shoulder Stretch
This stretch is suitable for people who have pain in their lower back or buttocks area. It can help to stretch the muscles and tendons around the sciatic nerve. Here's how you do this stretch:
Step 1: Lie down on your back and bend both of your knees.
Step 2: Bring one leg over the other, assuming a figure four position.
Step 3: Reach up with the hand on the opposite side of your body as the leg that is over the other leg and grab hold of your knee.
Step 4: Gently pull your knee towards your opposite shoulder until you feel a stretch in your buttocks region or lower back.
Step 5: Hold this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute and do three sets on each side.
3. Modified Pigeon Stretch
Some people say that this exercise is a little bit strenuous for them, but if you can do it, it is an excellent exercise for sciatica pain. This stretch is more of a yoga pose and can be pretty intense.
Step 1: Pick a side you want to stretch and bring it forward in front of you. You want your hip to be at about a 90-degree angle in front of your body. If it isn't, adjust your position until it is.
Step 2: The other leg should be behind you with the knee on the floor and that foot directly behind you.
Step 3: Once you're in position, keep your upper body straight forwards and slowly lower your hips towards the floor. You might feel a stretch in your buttocks or lower back region almost immediately.
Step 4: Hold this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute and do three sets on each side.
The more you move forward, the more stretch you will feel. Just be careful not to push yourself too hard as it might cause you pain.
These are just a few of the exercises that can help you find relief from sciatic nerve pain. If you suffer from sciatica, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise routine. Once you have the all-clear, give these exercises a try and see if they help alleviate your symptoms.