Back pain and sciatica are very common but also very treatable. Around one in ten people worldwide suffer from chronic back pain; in the United States, it’s eight out of ten. Most people believe that the use of pain-relieving drugs and opioids are the best way to treat sciatic pain, but exercises are the most natural and efficient way for long-term treatment of sciatica. We have listed some of the best exercises to get you on the road to leading a pain-free life. Combined with understanding your back pain and its physical or emotional triggers, these exercises will help you recuperate and regenerate your body. Make sure you are not too aggressive with these ten exercises for sciatica, and continue in slow, even, smooth motions.
We begin with the simplest of sciatic nerve exercises, but one where you may feel an increased pain while stretching. Sitting in a chair where your knees are not lower than your hips, keep your back straight and shoulders down, breath to relax and rest your hands on your thighs. Extend your right leg, so it’s straight while flexing the foot and, at the same time, look up to the ceiling. Be careful not to squash or crunch the neck when you look up; keep the neck extended. Hold for five seconds before returning to the start position, then repeat ten times on each leg.
Beginner Piriformis Stretch
Sitting with your back straight and core muscles engaged, place your feet on the floor in front of you at hip-width apart. Bring our right ankle up and rest it just above your left knee. Place your right hand on your right knee and push it away from you. For a stronger stretch, you can use both hands to push your knee away, but be careful not to twist your body as you bring your left hand across. Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat each side 2-3 times. Remember to breathe through the stretch and return to the start position when changing legs.
Knees to Chest
Also seen as a rest position, this “knees to chest” stretch is a straightforward and rewarding one for lower back pain, which is where sciatica pain begins. Lie on your back with your legs straight and arms over your head; breath to start the exercise. Slowly bring your knees all the way up to your chest, wrap your arms around your knees as far as is comfortable and enjoy the stretch through the buttocks and into the rounded lower back. Hold this stretch three times, 30 seconds each time. In between, come back to the start position of arms over the head and legs stretched out.
Lying on your back, put your left foot on the ground and pull your right knee toward your chest, keeping your right foot flexed. Next, extend the right leg toward the ceiling and point your right foot. Here, you should be extending your right leg as high as you can but being cautious of not overextending the pulling sensation. Repeat both legs ten times. Try not to pull too aggressively on the sciatic nerve as this may aggravate it more, and please keep your feet pointed; flexing the foot in this position will pull on the hamstrings.
Advanced Piriformis Stretch
Lie on your back with your feet on the ground, knees bent. Cross your right ankle over your left knee and flex your right foot. Use your right hand to gently but firmly push your right knee away from you. If you have mastered the sitting piriformis stretch, the next step is to wrap our hands underneath your left knee and pull your legs toward your chest. This is a really strong stretch, and if you can hold it for 30-60 seconds, it flexes and rotates your hip, giving the piriformis muscle a good stretch.
Exercises for Sciatica: Clamshell
Lying on your side, bring your knees up in front of your hips and keep the feet together. Your head can lie on your arm, and the other hand can be placed on the mat in front of your chest to help stabilize the position. Your body should be leaning slightly forward, so your belly button is angled to the floor. Keep your core and pelvis stable to avoid rocking and begin the exercise. Keeping your feet together, lift our top knee up and down slowly and smoothly. Repeat three sets of 20 on each side.
This exercise works on core strength as well as extending the sciatic nerve. Lying on your back, bring both knees up to align with your hips and extend the arms to the ceiling, in line with your shoulders. Engaging your stomach muscles and core, you now move your opposite arm to leg. To begin, left arm and right leg extend over the head and down to the ground, respectively. Pause slightly when you get to the down position before bringing both limbs back to the start. Repeat exercises with the opposite arm and leg, three sets of 10. Sciatic nerve health relies a lot on core strength, and extending the opposite arm to the leg is beneficial for lining up your body and the nerves that run down the entire length of it.
This exercise is essentially the reverse Dead Bug. Begin on all fours, sometimes known as a tabletop position. Your knees should be placed directly under your hips, and your wrists in line with your shoulders. Find your center and engage your core. Extend your right hand out straight in front of your head, and your left leg straight out behind you. Hold for a beat before bringing them back into the start position. Concentrate on keeping your hips and shoulders square and your back flat. Repeat on opposite sides, three sets of ten.
Sitting on the floor with your legs out straight, place your flexed feet against the wall in front of you. Begin with a straight back and a deep breath. Interlock your hands behind your head and start the exercise. Bring your elbows forward and slump your upper back down. You should fee a very strong stretch down the length of your back and back of the legs, Hold this for 30 seconds before returning to the start position; repeat three times.
Knee to Opposite Shoulder
This exercise can loosen the hip flexors and relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve from the hip joint. Lie on your back with your legs straight out on the floor, and the feet flexed. Bend your right leg and bring it toward you. Take hold of the leg underneath the knee with your hands. Next, gently pull the knee across our body, in the direction of your left shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds; change legs and repeat three times. Make sure your movements are fluid and steady; you will feel the stretch at the highest point of impact. Be careful not to overstretch.