One of the most common types of back pain is sciatica. This nerve pain rarely stays in the mild zone – the fact that the sciatic nerve itself is connected to so many other nerves along your body means that almost any movement can set it off.
Sciatic pain frequently becomes debilitating, keeping you from walking, sitting, or standing. This pain can be caused by many things, but it’s usual place of origin is in the hips and lower back area.
When your sciatic nerve is inflamed, stretches that rotate your hip or lower back may help take some pressure off of it. These six methods are recommended by physical therapists and chiropractors to help you get back to your day with less sciatic discomfort.
Sciatic Nerve Stretches and Exercises
When sciatic nerve pain hits, you need a quick relief from the often-excruciating pain. These simple movements are designed to stretch the nerves and reduce pressure to ease the ache.
- Hip stretches – Yoga movements are great stretches for your body, and the pigeon pose is perfect for opening the hips to relieve sciatic pain. If you have never done yoga before, this beginning position is simple and offers quick relief:
- Lay on your back comfortably.
- Pull your right leg up to form a 90-degree angle. Hold it in place by locking your fingers behind your thigh.
- Lift your left leg off the bed until it’s even with the right leg.
- Move your right ankle so it rests over your left knee and hold the stretch for 10 – 15 seconds.
- Switch legs and repeat the steps three to five times.
- Knee and shoulder stretches – You don’t have to be too flexible to do these knee to shoulder stretches. Sciatic pain is often caused by surrounding muscles impinging on the nerve, like the gluteal and piriformis muscles. A small tug loosens these inflamed areas and lightens their pressure on the sciatic nerve.
- From a reclining position on your back, extend your legs straight out with your feet flexed, toes to the ceiling.
- Slide your right foot backward along the flat surface below you until your foot is below your bent knee, then use your hands clasped together to hold the position.
- Use your clasped hands to pull your leg towards your left shoulder slowly. When you feel a nice stretch at a comfortable position, hold the leg in place for 30 seconds. This should not be painful.
- Return your knee to the straight, extended position, feet flexed, then repeat three times.
- Switch sides and repeat the steps with your left leg.
- Hamstring stretches – Sciatic nerve pain can extend into the hamstring, causing tightness and difficulty standing or walking. A simple standing hamstring stretch is often enough to reduce this discomfort.
- While you are standing, find a flat surface that is about hip level to you or slightly lower. Make sure it’s sturdy enough for you to use it to support you.
- On the side of your body feeling pain (or one side at a time, if both are), flex your foot to straighten your leg and toes. It’s okay if there’s a small bend in your knee if that’s how you’re comfortable.
- Lean towards your foot like you’re trying to touch your toes. Go as far as you can until you feel a gentle stretch. You should not feel pain. If you do, back your stretch up until you’re comfortable again.
- Hold the stretched position for 30 seconds, then move to the other side and repeat the steps. Do this 3 – 5 times per side.
- Seated stretch – Sciatic pain can hit at the least opportune moments. It’s not always possible to lay down and stretch or randomly grab an object to do standing exercises. This seated stretch is perfect for those awkward moments when the pain kicks in and you still have to look and act professional.
- In a seated position, cross the leg in pain over the knee of your other leg.
- Keep your back straight but bend your torso forward slightly until you feel a stretch in the area.
- Hold the position for 30 seconds.
- Repeat the stretch with the other side to keep your hips in balance.
- Long adductor stretch – This stretch is one that many people truly enjoy doing because of the gentle pull it gives many of the muscle groups in the body. It’s an easy, quick way to release tension of the nerves and muscles in the groin and long adductor area.
- Get in a seated position with room around you to stretch out.
- Place your legs straight in front of you and spread them as wide as you can.
- Put your hands on the floor between your legs and lean forward toward them.
- Lean your elbows so they are resting on the flat ground and walk them slightly forward until you feel a gentle pull. This should not be painful. If it is, you have stretched too far.
- Hold the stretched position, elbows on the ground, for 10 – 20 seconds.
- Repeat three to five times.
- Hip Extension – Since the sciatic nerve is intricately connected to your hips, this stretch is great for relieving pain quickly.
- Place your body on the ground with your knees and hands on the flat surface. Keep your hands in line with your shoulders.
- Raise the sore leg toward the ceiling, keeping your knee bent, and stretch it gently.
- Lower your leg until it almost, but not quite, touches the floor, then lift it again.
- Repeat the stretch 10 – 15 times.
Physical Therapy and Chiropractic Can Help
Sciatic nerve pain, especially when it’s chronic, can flare up at any time. If your back discomfort is keeping you from your daily activities in Chicago, contact us here at PhyxMe Physical Therapy and Chiropractic to schedule an appointment. Our specialists will work with you to find the cause of your pain and help you get back to your normal quality of living quickly.