Your sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body. Its pathway runs from your lower back, through the buttocks, the backs of your legs, and into the bottoms of your feet. When the nerve becomes compressed, pinched, inflamed, or damaged, you can feel a myriad of symptoms anywhere along its pathway. For some, it is only a slight tingling or buzzing sensation. For others, the pain can be excruciating, making it difficult to stand, walk, sit, or lie down for any length of time.
If you suffer from sciatic pain, one or more of these sciatica stretches will provide the natural relief. When done daily, they often relieve other lower back, hip, neck, and knee pain.
3 Sciatica Stretches to Relieve Sciatica Pain
1. Seated Piriformis Stretch
The piriformis muscle is a common cause of sciatic pain. Prior to the advent of the office environment, and television, humans were pretty mobile creatures. Our bodies moved, bent, twisted, and turned regularly, in order to survive day-to-day life. Nowadays, it is common for children and adults to live fairly sedentary lives, which make for an unhappy, and unhealthy, musculo-skeletal system. When piriformis muscles become short and/or tight, they can compress the sciatic nerve.
Try stretching your piriformis muscle every day for a minute or two.This will keep the muscle elongated and flexible, and will keep it from pressing on your tender sciatic nerve. The correct way to stretch your piriformis:
- Sit straight on the edge of a chair with your weight on your sitting bones. Keep your back straight, and away from the chair back, and relax.
- Place your right ankle across your left knee so your right leg creates a 90° angle. Relax your right leg and knee and let it rest where it falls naturally. If you are tight, your knee will not want to lie down. That is fine. Over time, that will improve.
- Rest your left hand on your right ankle, and place your right hand round your right knee. Keeping your back perfectly straight (do no round your lower back!), slowly and gently move your chest forward. You will immediately feel a pull in your right buttock and hip. Stop and take two or three slow breaths, in and out.
- Ensuring there is absolutely no bend in your lower back, try to move just a little further forward, and take another two or three breaths.
- Repeat as often as you like and then do the same thing with your left leg. In time, this stretch will alleviate lower back and hip pain, and potentially knee pain as well.
2. Lateral Rotator Stretch
This is one of the most popular sciatica stretches. Similar to the piriformis stretch you learned above, this one is done lying down and will stretch your piriformis as well as your lateral rotator muscle group. The correct way to stretch your lateral rotator group.
- Lie down on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. We recommend using a yoga mat or rug for comfort. Do not use a soft surface, like a bed or a couch, or your posture will be affected.
- Your back should be in a neutral position, which means you are relaxed, and not trying to press your lower back into the floor.
- Similar to the piriformis stretch, place your right ankle across your left knee. Your right knee will be pointing to the side. If you are exceptionally tight, clasp your hands around the back of your left thigh/knee. If you are fairly flexible, clasp your hands around the front of your bent left knee.
- Gently pull your left leg off the ground, keeping your right ankle in place. Just like with the piriformis stretch, you will feel an immediate tension/pull/tightness down the back of your right leg. You do not need to pull your leg with excessive force, or lean towards the leg. Simply feel the stretch and hold it for a few breaths and then release it.
- Repeat the process on the other side. You can do this as often and for as long as you like. Over time, you will become increasingly flexible, and your lengthened, flexible lateral rotator muscle group will take the pressure off your lower back.Your body should remain relaxed, and in the neutral position, the entire time. Never push yourself beyond your comfort zone.
3. Lumbar Twist
C’mon baby! Let’s do the twist! Of all the sciatica stretches, this one can be the most beneficial for those with a compressed disk. Demonstration of the lumbar twist.
- Lay down on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, similar to the Lateral Rotator Stretch. Lower your right leg until it is straight on the floor.
- Slowly and gently rotate the lower half of your body to the right, leading with your left knee so your left knee crosses your body and is angled towards the floor. Keep the upper-half of your body flat on the floor. Hold this position for several breaths and then move back to the original position.
- Repeat this stretch on the other side. As you become more flexible, you can use your hand to add pressure to your knee to deepen the stretch even further.
This works to separate your lower lumbar vertebrae, which will relieve sciatic nerve pressure.
Always check with a medical professional before attempting any of these sciatica stretches. This is especially true if you suffer from chronic lower back pain or sciatica.