If you’ve ever felt a moderate to severe pain in your back, buttocks, and legs, you might be suffering from sciatica. The sciatic nerve is the longest and most important nerve in the body, beginning at your spinal cord and running through your hips, buttocks, and legs. If this nerve gets irritated, you’ll experience pain, weakness, or even numbing in those areas. Fortunately, there are some great exercises for sciatic nerve pain.
Sciatica Risk Factors
Sciatica generally occurs when the sciatic nerve gets pinched. Spinal conditions such as a herniated disk, piriformis syndrome, and spinal stenosis can trigger sciatic nerve pain. Certain factors also put you more at risk of developing sciatica, including:
- Having diabetes
- Previous injury
- Weak core
The most notable symptom of sciatica is pain that radiates from your lower spine to your buttocks and down the back of your legs. The pain can vary from mild to excruciating, and only one side of the body usually is affected. Some people can also notice sharp pain, burning sensations, and a feeling of electric shock. Other sciatica symptoms include:
- Pain that gets worse with movement
- Pins and needles sensation
- Numbness or weakness in the feet or legs
- Loss of movement
- Inability to control bowels or bladder (this is rare and when you should see a doctor)
If your sciatica is mild, it will usually go away after overtime. When you need immediate relief, there are some great exercises for sciatic nerve pain you can try. Exercising and stretching the muscles in your back, hips, legs, and glutes will not only provide pain relief but could also prevent the issue from occurring again.
Below is a list of stretches that can relieve any pain from sciatica. Having help from a certified stretch practitioner can ensure you perform the stretch correctly and help you get even faster relief.
The pigeon pose is a great hip opener. This stretch targets the thighs, back, piriformis (the muscle behind the gluteus maximus), and psoas (the muscle in the lower lumbar). Start in a downward-facing dog position, bring one leg forward, and then bring that knee to the floor. Your other leg should be extended behind you and flat on the floor. A stretch practitioner will gently push your back for a deeper stretch. After holding that position, you’ll switch to the other leg.
Knee to Opposite Shoulder
This stretch loosens the gluteal and piriformis muscles. When those muscles become inflamed, they can press against the sciatic nerve and cause pain. To perform the knee to opposite shoulder stretch, you’ll start by laying on your back with your legs extended and your feet facing upward. A stretching coach will bend one knee, gently pull it to the opposite shoulder, and hold it for 30 seconds before doing the other one.
The cobra pose is a great stretching and strengthening move for the lower back. You will begin on your stomach with your hands placed by your sides for this pose. Your stretch practitioner will gently lift your upper body, ensuring that your chest is up, shoulders are back, and neck is neutral.
Seated Spinal Twist
When the vertebra in your spine is compressed, sciatica pain can be triggered. The seated spinal twist can help create space in the spine, which relieves some of the pressure on the sciatic nerve. To do this pose, sit up with one leg extended in front of you and the other bent. A stretch practitioner will gently turn your body in the opposite direction of your extended leg, hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
If you’ve has sciatica once, you’ll want to do everything you can to prevent it from coming back! With a few health and lifestyle changes, you’ll be able to reduce your chances of sciatic nerve pain from occurring or returning. The following tips can help:
Keeping the muscles in your back and core strong can help prevent sciatic nerve pain. It’s one of the best ways to improve posture, alignment, and overall back health. You should also avoid exercises that can possibly trigger the sciatic nerve, such as the bend-over row, double leg lift, and leg circles.
Maintain Proper Posture
Having poor posture can lead to back and sciatic nerve pain. If you have an office job, make sure your chair provides proper support for your lumbar, and be careful about slouching! Mind your posture if you stand all day as well.
Lift Heavy Objects with Your Knees
You’ve heard the saying many times before: lift with your knees, not with your back. People stress this for a reason! You’re less likely to put extra strain on your back and irritating your sciatic nerve when you lift this way. Bend your knees and keep your back straight when picking up something heavy.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
If you’re obese, the extra weight puts increased pressure on your spine and can trigger sciatica. Maintaining a healthy weight ties in with exercising regularly and building strength in your back and core.
Are You Ready to Try These Exercises for Sciatic Nerve Pain?
These are some of the many ways to get immediate relief from sciatica. We encourage you to start slowly and under the supervision of a professional stretch practitioner to avoid injuring yourself. Over time, you’ll notice a significant reduction in pain from your sciatica!