4 Sciatica Exercises to Alleviate Pain

Emma Reed blog

The sciatic nerve is a large nerve located in the lower end of your spinal cord and runs down the back of both legs and down your thigh, splitting at the knee joint. When this nerve becomes pinched, damaged, or inflamed, it can result in intense pain. Some of the more common causes of sciatic pain are an injury, damage to the discs, herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and bone spurs. The most common symptoms of sciatica pain are numbness in the affected leg and tingling sensations in your feet and toes.

Below are sciatica exercises that can help you relieve your sciatica pain. The most common problem areas for sciatica pain are the hips and the lower back. When practicing these stretching exercises, remember; only stretch as far as possible.

1. Sitting Spinal Stretch

This stretching exercise can help make space between the vertebrae and is especially helpful if herniated discs are causing the pain.

  • Sit on the ground with your legs stretched out straight in front of you and your toes pointing up.
  • Bend your left knee, placing your foot flat on the floor on the outside of your right knee.
  • Put your right elbow on your left knee.
  • Gently use your elbow to turn your body to the left slowly.
  • Hold for at least 30 seconds, repeat 3 or more times, than switch sides.

Keep your shoulders relaxed while performing this stretching exercise. Remember to perform breathing exercises while doing any stretching.

2. Sitting Pigeon Pose

This is a lower back pain exercise, and when done repeatedly, it can help relieve lower back pain from overused muscles and sciatica pain.

  • Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you and your toes pointing up.
  • Bend your affected leg, bringing your knee out to the side, and placing your ankle on top of the opposite leg, just above the knee.
  • Lean forward and try and touch our toes. Hold for at least 15 seconds.
  • Repeat three times, trying to stretch a little farther each time, make touching your toes your goal!

Just like before, you want to keep your shoulders relaxed.

3. Knee to Chest Stretch

This exercise is excellent for your lower back muscles and can help relieve a lot of pressure in your lower back and gluteal muscle.

  • Lie on your back with a small flat pillow or cushion under your head.
  • Bend your knees but keep your feet flat on the ground, with your feet straight and hip-width apart.
  • Tuck your chin in slightly.
  • Bend one knee up to your chest and hold for 20 – 30 seconds.
  • Repeat three times, alternating legs after each set of three.

Remember not to tense your neck or shoulders, tensing your neck is easy to do with this exercise when you begin to bring your knee to your chest.

4. Standing Hamstring Stretch

This exercise is best performed at the bottom of a flight of stairs, or with a small step stool.

  • Standing straight, raise one leg onto the first step, and place your foot flat onto the step.
  • While standing straight like a toothpick, lean forward as much as possible, do not let your back arch at all.
  • Hold this stretch for 30 seconds while taking slow deep breaths.
  • Repeat three times with each leg.

Don’t forget to perform your breathing exercises while stretching.

Additional Treatment Options

On days where your sciatica issues flair up you may need to ice or heat the painful area before you begin sciatica stretches. In between sciatica exercises, you may also need to ice and or heat your gluteal muscle to keep it from cramping up. Make sure to keep yourself hydrated; dehydration leads to muscle cramping, and muscle cramps will increase your sciatica pain.

A chiropractor may also be a big help, as many people find that having an adjustment can positively affect their joint pain. If the pain persists, you may need to speak to your chiropractor about adding physical therapy to your exercise and stretching regimen.

Emma Reed has a background in Psychology (B.A.) and Medical Anthropology (M.S.) and writes for a variety of medical publications. Her passion is making cutting-edge medical information accessible to a wider audience, and her work often examines the intersections of sociology, anthropology, and medicine.