Physical Stress
August 22, 2023

5 Proven Sciatica Exercises For Sciatica Pain Relief

Woman sitting on bed with hand on her back

Sciatica is a widespread condition that can dramatically impact an individual's quality of life. Sciatic nerve pain affects nearly 40% of people during their lifetime. The term "sciatica" originates from the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in the body, which extends from the lower back down to the feet.

It is actually a bundle of nerves that come from five nerve roots branching off the spinal cord in the low back region. When this nerve is pinched or irritated, it leads to the often debilitating pain known as sciatica, which feels like pain, tingling, and/or numbness that can extend from the lower back down the buttock, back of the leg, and to the foot.

The good news? Sciatica stretches and exercises play a crucial role in managing and reducing sciatica pain. Targeted, regular exercise not only improves general body fitness but can specifically strengthen the back and abdominal muscles, key players in reducing pressure on the sciatic nerve.

In this blog post, we will guide you through the science behind sciatica, explain why stretches for sciatica can help, and provide a detailed description of five proven exercises to help ease sciatica pain.

What are the Causes and Risk Factors?

Despite its prevalence, the root cause of sciatica can vary from person to person. Whether it's a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, or piriformis syndrome, emphasizing the need for accurate diagnosis and personalized care.

In 90% of sciatica cases, the cause is a herniated disc in the lower back, causing nerve root compression of a nerve root that contributes to the sciatic nerve. Less common causes are spinal stenosis, foraminal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, injuries, and tumors.

Potential Risk Factors of Sciatica

  • Previous or current injury to the lumbar spine
  • Increased age
  • Excess weight or obesity
  • Weak core strength and sedentary lifestyle
  • Too much sitting or movements that require a lot of bending or working in an awkward position
  • Smoking

Guide to 5 Proven Sciatica Exercises to Alleviate Sciatica Pain

Exercise 1: Knees to Chest Stretch

The Knees to Chest stretch is a simple but effective exercise to relieve sciatica pain.

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Lie flat on your back with your legs extended.
  2. Slowly bring one knee towards your chest, holding it with your hands.
  3. Hold this position for about 20-30 seconds.
  4. Return your leg to the starting position.
  5. Repeat the process with the other leg.
  6. Complete 2-3 sets on each side.

Benefits and expected results:

This hamstring stretch alleviates pressure on the sciatic nerve by loosening the hamstring and gluteal muscles. Regular practice can help reduce the intensity and frequency of sciatica pain.

Exercise 2: Sciatic Nerve Glides

Sciatic Nerve Glides can help improve mobility in the sciatic nerve.

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Sit on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Take one leg straight out in front of you, with your toes pointed upwards.
  3. Slowly lower the leg back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat the exercise for 5-10 repetitions on each side.

Benefits and expected results:

This exercise can help mobilize the sciatic nerve and surrounding tissues, thereby reducing nerve irritability and improving the range of motion.

Exercise 3: Lower Back Stretches

Lower Back Stretches can provide relief by reducing tension in the muscles supporting the spine.

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
  2. Gently pull and roll both knees to one side and hold for 20-30 seconds.
  3. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
  4. Perform 2-3 sets on each side.

Benefits and expected results:

Lower back stretches help relax lower back muscles, hips, and buttocks where the sciatic nerve passes through, which can relieve sciatic pain.

Exercise 4: Piriformis Muscle Stretch

The Piriformis Muscle Stretch targets a small muscle located deep in the buttock, close to the sciatic nerve.

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Sit on a chair with both feet flat on the floor.
  2. Cross your affected leg over the knee of the other leg.
  3. Gently lean forward until a stretch is felt in the buttock.
  4. Hold for 20-30 seconds and then return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat 2-3 times.

Benefits and expected results:

This exercise can help reduce sciatic pain caused by piriformis syndrome, a condition where the piriformis muscle irritates the sciatic nerve.

Exercise 5: Gentle Yoga Poses (Child's Pose, Pigeon Pose)

Yoga poses like the Child's Pose and Pigeon Pose can provide relief from sciatica pain.

Step-by-step instructions for Child's Pose:

  1. Kneel on a mat and sit back on your heels.
  2. Bend forward at the waist, extending your arms in front of you on the mat.
  3. Rest your forehead on the mat and hold for 1-3 minutes.

Step-by-step instructions for Pigeon Pose:

  1. Start on all fours in a table pose.
  2. Bring your right knee forward and out to the right side.
  3. Slide your left leg back as far as your hips will allow.
  4. Stay upright or lean forward over your right leg to intensify the stretch.
  5. Hold for 1-3 minutes, then repeat on the other side.

Benefits and expected results:

Gentle exercises like yoga poses can improve flexibility, strengthen muscles, and relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve. Regular practice can help manage and reduce sciatica pain over time.

Precautions Before Starting Exercises 

Before starting any new exercise program, especially if you're dealing with conditions like sciatica, it's essential to consider the following precautions:

Start Slow

It's important not to rush into any exercise routine. Start slow, respect your body's limits, and focus on executing the movements correctly rather than pushing for high intensity. Over time, as your body adjusts and strengthens, you can gradually increase the intensity of your exercises.

Listen to Your Body

The goal of these exercises is to reduce discomfort, not to increase it. If you experience increased pain or discomfort during or after exercise, consider the following steps:

  • Pause and Rest: Stop the exercise and rest. Sometimes, a brief pause is all that's needed.
  • Reassess Your Technique: Ensure you're performing the exercises correctly. Incorrect form can sometimes cause additional discomfort.
  • Reduce Intensity or Frequency: If pain persists, it might be helpful to lessen the intensity of your workouts or reduce the frequency of certain exercises.
  • Consult a Professional: If discomfort continues despite these adjustments, reach out to a healthcare professional. They can help identify the problem and suggest modifications or alternatives.

Each individual's experience with sciatica is unique. Therefore, personalizing your approach and listening to professional advice is key to ensuring that your exercise routine effectively alleviates your sciatica pain.

When to Seek Professional Help

While regular exercise and self-care can play a pivotal role in managing mild sciatica, there are certain scenarios where professional help becomes a necessity.

  1. Persistent Pain: If your sciatica pain persists for more than a few weeks despite home care and exercises, it's time to reach out for help. Persistent pain might indicate a more severe underlying condition that requires professional attention.
  2. Increasing Intensity: If the severity of your pain continues to increase over time, or if the pain suddenly becomes unbearable, don't delay in seeking help.
  3. Loss of Function: If you experience loss of bowel or bladder function, go for an immediate consultation.

How Chiropractors Can Help Prevent Sciatica Nerve Pain?

Chiropractic can be incredibly beneficial for those dealing with sciatica as chiropractors are trained to understand the intricacies of the neuromusculoskeletal system. 

These professionals can provide a comprehensive assessment of your condition, understand the root cause of your sciatica, and develop a personalized care plan to help heal the underlying cause of the Sciatica. Through non-invasive techniques, chiropractors work toward not only reducing your pain but improving your overall spinal health, potentially preventing future episodes of sciatica.

Book an Appointment with ATLAS Chiropractic Today

At ATLAS Chiropractic, we're committed to helping you navigate through the discomfort of sciatica. Our chiropractic professionals understand the challenges that come with this condition and can provide personalized plans designed to correct the cause of sciatic pain, enhance mobility, and improve your overall quality of life.


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