When you suffer with the pain and debilitating effects of sciatica, more movement is often the last thing on your mind. But a few moments throughout the days spent stretching can make all the difference for sciatica pain relief. Be sure to make stretching part of your daily life, whether you’re in pain that day or not. Stretching can help make back pain subside when it strikes, but remembering to stretch daily will, over time, help you retain your range of motion and build strength, achieving long term relief. Keep both stretching and core-strength exercises in your routine, but don’t do any exercise or movement if it causes pain. Here are some easy stretches to help keep sciatica pain at bay:
- Relax lower back muscles: “The seal bend”-- Begin face down flat on the floor. Bend elbows and bring hands up under your shoulders. Slowly press on the floor to push your torso up with your hands. You’re bending backward forming a curve in your lower back, with your pelvis remaining on the ground. Legs should remain relaxed on the floor. Hold the position for 20 seconds or about 3 slow breaths. Now, slowly return to the original face down position and repeat 5-10 times. Viewed from the side, you should look like a seal when doing this stretch.
- Stretch the buttocks (piriformis) muscle: This a pear-shaped muscle that can compress or irritate the sciatic nerve which runs from your low back to your leg. “The Figure Four stretch”– Lie on your back with both legs straight up in the air. Bend your right leg, placing the right ankle on your left thigh above the knee. At this point, your legs should look like an upside down “4”. Now grab your left thigh with both hands and bend your left knee, pulling it toward your chest. You should feel a stretch along the outside of the right hip. After 3 slow breaths, repeat on other side.
- Stretch the spine and reduce lower back pressure: Lie flat on your back with your arms relaxed at your sides. Exhale while bringing your left knee to your chest, leaving the right leg straight but relaxed on the floor. (Don’t lock the knee of the straight leg.) Hug the shin with your arms and raise your forehead toward the knee. Continue to breathe, holding the stretch for 15 seconds, then gently release. Repeat by bringing the right knee to chest, leaving left leg straight on the floor.
Talk to your back specialist to diagnose your sciatica and before starting an exercise program. Your physical therapist can show you how to do the stretches properly and tailor a routine of stretches to your specific needs. When stretching, go slowly, with gentle movements—no bouncing, twisting or sudden jerking of your body. Concentrate on taking deep breaths in and out as you stretch.
If you’d like a free back pain consultation, contact the Illinois Pain Institute. Ask about Functional Disc Rehydration™, the all-natural back pain treatment developed by Dr. Jeff Winternheimer, D.C. This simple, non-invasive treatment has brought relief to many of our patients. Learn more on our website and make an appointment for your consultation.