7 of the best exercises for sciatica

 

People with sciatica may find that certain exercises and stretches help relieve pain and tightness in the sciatic nerve and the surrounding area. Although sciatica generally goes away over time, these exercises for sciatica can speed up the healing process.

Referred pain from sciatica can be particularly difficult to manage and sometimes debilitating. Unlike other forms of pain, rest may not improve sciatica.

This article suggests different exercises people can do to relieve sciatica and explains why they work. It also looks at the causes and symptoms of sciatica, what preventative measures you can take, and other treatment options.

 

Most cases of sciatica improve in about 4-6 weeks. However, some exercises and stretches can aid the healing process while also relieving pain.

The following movements should be used to increase the strength and flexibility of the glutes, piriformis, hamstrings, and lower back muscles.

A person is likely to get the best results by performing these movements on a regular basis. However, not everyone will necessarily find all of the exercises helpful because different causes of sciatica affect the sciatic nerve differently.

It is important to note that while the exercises cause stretch and tension in the area, they should not worsen the pain or create new pain.

Active body gifs. Creative head.

Knees to chest

This movement involves the following steps:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent, knees up and feet flat on the floor.
  • Bring one knee to your chest and let the other foot rest on the floor.
  • Hold the knee against your chest for up to 30 seconds or how long is comfortable.
  • Slowly let go of the leg and repeat the process with the other leg.

Aim for 3 reps on each leg. As a variation on this stretch, bring both legs to your chest and hold them for 30 seconds.

A woman lying on the floor while demonstrating gluteal bridges for sciatica.Active body gifs. Creative head.

Gluteal bridges

People can do glute bridges by following these steps:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent so your knees are pointing up and your feet are flat on the floor about shoulder width apart.
  • Press on your heels and lift your hips until your body is in a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
  • Hold the position for a few seconds, depending on your comfort, then gently bring your hips back to the floor.

Aim for 8-10 reps first and move on to several sets if comfortable.

Sitting pigeon keeping

A woman demonstrates Sitting Pigeon Post for sciatica against a blue background.James Farrell gifs.

People who practice yoga may already be familiar with this movement:

  • Sit on the floor and straighten your legs with your feet together.
  • Bend your right leg and place your right ankle over your left knee.
  • Bend forward at your hips and gently lower your upper body towards your thighs.
  • Alternatively, if you can do it without discomfort, bend your left leg inward and place your hands behind your thigh to increase the stretch.
  • Hold the stretch for 10-20 seconds, depending on your comfort level.
  • Slowly release the hold and repeat the stretch on the other side.

A woman demonstrating a sitting trunk extension for sciatica in front of a white background.Active body gifs. Creative head.

Sitting torso stretch

People can also try the following to stretch their core:

  • Sit on the floor and straighten your legs, bending your toes up.
  • Bend your right knee, lift your foot, and place it at the knee on the outside of your left leg.
  • Place your left elbow on the outside of your right knee and gently push it in, rotating it to the right side of your body.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds, then release and switch sides.

Repeat 2-3 times on each side.

Child pose

A woman demonstrating child's posture for sciatica on a black yoga mat.Active body gifs. Creative head.

This pose, also popular in yoga, includes the following steps:

  • Start in a kneeling position and lower your buttocks onto your heels.
  • Separate your knees to about your hips and place your upper body between your thighs.
  • Extend your arms in a relaxed position on the floor in front of your head.
  • Breathe into the position to relax. Instead of pressing your buttocks on your heels, let them rest in the position so that they create a gentle stretch.

If possible, hold the position for up to 30 seconds before gently releasing it.

Hamstring stretching while standing

A person needs something low and stable to place their foot for this route:

A woman demonstrates a standing stretch of the Achilles tendon for sciatica with her leg supported on a block of wood.James Farrell gifs.

  • Stand up straight and place one foot on something higher than the other foot, but still below hip level, such as a stool or a step.
  • Bend your foot so that the toes point up with the leg straight.
  • Bend forward slightly at the hips and move your torso down towards the leg to grip the hamstring. Keep your back straight.
  • Bend down as far as you can without causing discomfort, but do not overstretch yourself.
  • Hold the position for up to 30 seconds, or as long as it is comfortable.
  • Release carefully and repeat with the other leg.

Aim for 2-3 repetitions per leg.

Pelvic tilts

This exercise works by strengthening the lower back, glutes, and lower abs:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your arms at your sides.
  • Tense your abdominal muscles and press your back into the floor.
  • Tilt your hips and pelvis up slightly and hold this position, focusing on your breath for a few seconds.
  • Let go of the position and relax.

Aim for about 10 reps to start with, then build that number over time if possible.

 

According to the BMJ, health professionals should see exercise as a key part of non-invasive treatment.

This is because, unlike some other forms of injury, sciatic pain can improve with exercise rather than rest. Additionally, after the pain disappears, continuing the exercise can help prevent it from recurring.

Factors that can help relieve sciatica symptoms include:

Improved muscle strength

Exercise activates and strengthens the muscles in the affected area, and stronger muscles can take some of the strain off the surrounding tissues. According to research in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation, targeted exercises help stabilize the back and promote mobility in its movements. By doing this, they can help relieve pressure on the intervertebral discs near the sciatic nerve.

Improved blood circulation

Exercise improves blood flow to the muscles and nerves in the area. Improved blood flow helps bring fresh blood and nutrients into the area while promoting the transport of toxins and inflammation out of the area.

Improved soft tissue health

Regular mobilization exercises for sciatica can help heal the soft tissues in the intervertebral discs and keep them healthy. Research suggests that the intervertebral discs have a healthier exchange of nutrients and fluids during exercise. As a result, prolonged periods of non-use and reduced physical activity can damage the data carriers.

Improved Nerve Health

A 2016 study found that targeted exercises for sciatica helped improve markers of nerve health by stimulating the nervous system to increase the flexibility of the nerve and reduce stiffness and sensitivity.

 

Sciatica refers to a type of nerve pain along the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the widest and longest nerve in the body and runs from the lower back through the hips before branching down into each leg. The nerve can be up to 2 centimeters in diameter in some areas.

Sciatica generally affects one leg and the same side of the body as the nerve clamp occurs. Symptoms include referred pain that may cause tingling or numbness in the area, including around the buttocks, back of leg, or feet and toes.

The affected area may also feel weaker than usual. In some cases, a person may also have back pain, but this may feel as a result of the increased pain in the sciatic nerve.

Learn more about sciatica here.

 

Sciatic pain occurs when the sciatic nerve becomes irritated and inflamed. However, in many cases of sciatica, diagnosing a single obvious cause can be difficult.

Pain can occur when a disc slips or breaks and puts pressure on the sciatic nerve. Intervertebral discs are areas of cartilage that cushion the vertebrae in the spine and support the flexibility of the spine.

Other causes of sciatica include:

  • Infections that spread to the spine
  • Injuries to the spine
  • Tumors in the spine
  • Spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal cord
  • Spondylolisthesis, a condition in which the disc itself slips over a vertebra
  • Cauda equina syndrome, which affects the nerves in the lower part of the spinal cord

 

Some basic preventive measures can help reduce the risk of sciatica or prevent back damage, which can be causing the pain.

Basic prevention tips include:

  • Use proper techniques for lifting heavy objects
  • regular exercise to strengthen the muscles
  • Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time
  • Avoiding pain-inducing activities such as bending and twisting before warming up
  • spend time warming up the muscles before using them

 

Other treatment options for sciatica include drugs to control inflammation and home remedies.

Medical therapies

Medications that doctors may recommend or prescribe for sciatica relief include:

Home remedies

Home remedies for sciatica pain are:

  • Use hot or cold packs to reduce inflammation and make the person comfortable
  • regular, low-intensity exercise, such as gentle walking and swimming
  • Conducting nuclear exercises
  • Practicing good posture while sitting and standing

 

Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve becomes compressed or irritated, sometimes due to a herniated disc in the spine. Strengthening muscles and increasing flexibility in this area can speed recovery and prevent further injury.

A person can discuss treatment options, including the most effective exercises, with their doctor and physical therapist to create a treatment plan that is right for them.