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In our previous article, we focused on the causes of sciatica and the treatability thereof.  In this article, we will explain how different exercises can help ease the pain and discomfort associated sciatica

Sciatica exercises – In most instances of sciatica pain a controlled and progressive exercise program that is tailored around the underlying cause of the sciatic pain will be part of the recommended treatment program. The specific sciatica exercises serve two main purposes:

  • Reduce the sciatic pain in the near term
  • Provide conditioning to help prevent future recurrences of the pain

The treatment program will be carefully developed by your Chiropractor in order to ensure the best results for your specific problem or the origin of your pain is addressed. It is important to remember – before starting any exercise program you need to consult with your health care practitioner.

Most types of sciatica will benefit significantly from a stretching routine that targets the hips and hamstrings and relieves an overused or inflamed piriformis muscle. The piriformis is a small muscle that attaches at the base of the spine and runs just above the sciatic nerve.

Taking care of sciatica should be considered part of daily living, not just something to add to the routine at the end of the day. In addition to the sciatica exercise routine, patients should minimize everyday stress on the lower back, including using appropriate ergonomics while lifting, maintaining good posture, making sure the lower back is supported while sitting, and avoiding sitting or standing for long periods of time.

Here is a few sciatica exercises that you may benefit from:

Pelvic Tilt

The purpose of the pelvic tilt is to strengthen lower abdominal muscles and to stretch the lower back. Strong lower abdominal muscles take the strain off your back. People that don’t exercise are more prone to lower back pain due to weak abdominal muscles. Lower back muscles that are not exercised become rigid in the joint areas and may lead to chronic lower back pain. Abdominal muscles play a crucial role in posture, support of the spine, balance, stability, and respiratory functions such as breathing. Let us explain how to do a pelvic tilt:

  1. Lie on your back.
  2. Exhale and tighten your abdominal muscles while pushing your belly button toward the floor and flatten your lower back.
  3. Hold the position for 5 seconds.
  4. Repeat the pelvic tilt 10 times holding the position for 5 seconds each time.

Knee to Chest

The single knee-to-chest exercise stretches your hamstrings, which are muscles along the back of your thighs that help you walk, run, sit and stand. Doing this simple stretch may help you get good spinal flexion because it allows the natural chain reaction from thigh to hip to low back to occur.  Stretching can help you become more flexible and increase the range of motion in your joints. You can use this exercise to ease any muscle tension or pain in these muscle groups.

  1. Lie on your back.
  2. Starting with either your left or right knee and use your hands to gently pull the bent knee toward your chest.
  3. Hold for 10 seconds.
  4. Repeat the movement with the opposite knee.
  5. Perform the movement 3 to 5 times holding the position for 10 seconds each time.
  6. Next, use your hands to gently pull both knees toward your chest.
  7. Hold for 10 seconds.
  8. Repeat the movement with both knees 3 to 5 times holding the position for 10 seconds each time.

Lower Trunk Rotations

By doing the lower trunk rotation, you will work on increasing flexibility in your low back (lumbar spine) and hips, allowing for greater mobility and rotation in the spine. The primary areas affected by torso rotation exercises are the abs, transverse abdominus, and obliques. Secondary muscles groups affected are stabilizers such as the rhomboids, deltoids, glutes, abductors, quads and adductors.

  1. Lie on your back with both knees bent upright and both feet flat on the floor (called the hook lying position).
  2. While holding both knees together, rotate your knees to one side and hold for 3 to 5 seconds. You will feel a gentle stretching sensation in the opposite side of your lower back and hip area.
  3. Next, contract your abdominal muscles and rotate both knees to the opposite side and hold for 3 to 5 seconds.
  4. Repeat up to 10 times on each side.

Knee to the Opposite Shoulder

This simple stretch helps relieve sciatica pain by loosening your gluteal and piriformis muscles, which can become inflamed and press against the sciatic nerve.

  1. Lie on your back with your legs extended and your feet flexed upward.
  2. Bend your right leg and clasp your hands around the knee.
  3. Gently pull your right leg across your body toward your left shoulder. Hold it there for 30 seconds. Remember to pull your knee only as far as it will comfortably go. You should feel a relieving stretch in your muscle, not pain.
  4. Push your knee so your leg returns to its starting position.
  5. Repeat for a total of 3 reps, and then switch legs.

Sitting Spine Stretch

Sciatica pain is triggered when vertebrae in the spine compress. This stretch helps create space in the spine to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve.

  1. Sit on the ground with your legs extended straight out with your feet flexed upward.
  2. Bend your right knee and place your foot flat on the floor on the outside of your opposite knee.
  3. Place your left elbow on the outside of your right knee to help you gently turn your body toward the right.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three times, then switch sides.

Remember –  there is no one-size-fits-all exercise for people who have sciatic nerve pain. Gentle strengthening exercises that target your core and back will improve your posture and ability to respond to stress, reducing the likelihood and severity of back pain. While you’re recovering from sciatica, you may want to avoid high-impact exercises, such as running and plyometrics.