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Exercises that Target Sciatica

The sciatic nerve extends from both sides of the lower spine, traveling along the buttock and leg, all the way to the foot. Compression or pinching of this nerve anywhere along this path can lead to a painful condition called sciatica. The pain can range from a nagging pain in the lower back to shooting pains down one of the legs, and is often disabling. Numbness and tingling may also be present.

Sciatic nerve compression may be caused by an injury, rupture of an intervertebral disc, narrowing of the spinal canal or irritation from an inflamed or tightened piriformis muscle located deep in the hip.

Listed below are a few stretches that can ease sciatica pain by externally rotating the hip and stretching the piriformis muscle.

  • Seated stretch: While sitting in a chair place the ankle of your affected leg over the thigh of the other leg. Gently lean forward feeling the stretch in the affected leg.
  • Lying stretch: Lie on your back and draw one knee up holding the leg behind the thigh with both hands. Then draw up the affected leg placing the ankle over the knee of the leg you are holding. You should feel a stretch in the buttock.
  • Twisting stretch: Sit on the floor with the knee of the affected leg drawn up and its foot flat on the floor while the other leg extends straight ahead of you. Now twist your upper body towards the affected side placing your opposite elbow across the bent knee for leverage.
  • Knee to shoulder stretch: While lying flat on your back draw up the knee of your affected leg using your opposite hand to pull it towards the shoulder of that side.
  • Yoga stretch: Get on the floor on your hands and knees. Extend the unaffected leg back, straightening out the knee and pointing the toes back. Simultaneously move the knee of the affected side forward with the heel across until it is in line with the opposite hip. Straighten your back, place your hands on either side and take a deep breath. Now bend your upper body forward while exhaling and feeling the stretch.

With these simple stretches, you can experience great relief from sciatic pain and improve your quality of life.

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E. Patrick Curry, MDBoard Certified & Fellowship Trained Orthopedic Spine Surgeon
  • University of Scranton
  • Georgetown University Medical Center
  • Thomas Jefferson University
  • The University of Utah