As many as 40 percent of adult Americans will have to deal with sciatica pain at some point in their lives.
If you’re one of them, you’ve probably run across a lot of advice about exercises for back pain. Perhaps you’ve even tried a few and found they didn’t work for you.
The problem with most back exercises is that while sciatica is technically back pain, it’s different from a run of the mill backache.
Pressure on the sciatic nerve can cause pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness in your lower back. These symptoms often radiate down one of your legs, as well.
And standard back pain exercises, which focus on your back muscles, often don’t relieve sciatica pain effectively.
Relieve sciatica pain with the RIGHT exercises
Following are six proven effective stretches that could help you tackle your sciatica pain as soon as it starts.
1. Regular low-impact movement:
When sciatica pains strikes you may feel tempted to lie down and not move. Ignore that impulse. The pain will likely only get worse if you do.
Instead, opt for some low-impact movement. Go for a walk around the block several times a day. Pedal a stationary bike while you watch TV. Or start your morning with a swim at the community pool.
It doesn’t matter which low-impact exercise you pick. Just keep moving and it will help relieve the nerve irritation. Plus it could help keep the pain from coming back.
A study published in the Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation found that yoga significantly improved sciatica pain with no reported adverse results.
There are several different types of yoga. So before committing to a class have a chat with the yoga instructor about your needs. She will be able to help you figure out which version is the best one for you.
3. Hamstring stretches:
The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body. It runs down into your legs, and keeping the large muscles in them from binding up the nerve can prevent or relieve sciatica pain.
The hamstring stretch is one of the easiest stretches to do that. You’ll need a box, a step, or a chair, anything you can rest a foot on.
Stand on your left leg, and lift your right heel onto the stair, so your leg is straight out in front of you, and your toes are pointing to the ceiling. Without locking either knee, gently bend forward at the waist, reaching for your right toes.
You should feel the stretch in the back of your right thigh. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, then release. Switch legs and repeat on the left side.
4. Sitting pigeon stretch:
Sit on the floor, with your legs straight in front of you. Keeping your left leg straight, cross your right ankle over your left thigh. Your legs should make a number 4 shape.
Lean forward, bending as far over as you can without lifting your hips off the floor. You should feel the stretch along the outside of your right hip.
Only bend forward until you can feel the stretch, NOT until it hurts. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then release. Repeat with the left leg.
5. Reclining pigeon stretch:
Lie down on the floor, on your back, with your legs extended. Bring your left knee to your chest and wrap a towel around the back of your raised thigh to help hold it in place.
Cross your right ankle over your left thigh. Gently pull on the towel until you can feel a stretch along your outer right thigh. (If you’re having trouble picturing this one, try a quick google search for images.)
Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, and release. Switch legs, and repeat.
6. Full pigeon stretch:
The full pigeon stretch is an advanced stretch, so don’t get discouraged if you aren’t up to it at first. Start by getting onto all fours, with your hands shoulder width apart and your weight evenly distributed between your hands and knees.
Slide your right knee in between your hands, so you’re almost resting on the outside of your right leg. Straighten your left leg out behind you. Aiming the middle of your chest at your right knee, lean forward as far as you can, until you feel the stretch along the outside of your right thigh.
Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then release. Switch legs and repeat. If you find your knees or hips hurt when trying this one, gently back out of it. You can try it again once you’ve gotten more flexible doing the other stretches.
Stop trying to get rid of your sciatica pain with normal back exercises. Try these targeted stretches instead.