If you suffer from sciatica, which can cause back pain that radiates down the legs, you will benefit from daily stretching exercises. Muscle tension can increase pressure on the sciatic nerve, increasing pain. A regular routine of stretches can make your body more flexible, helping to relieve pain and tension, increase resiliency and help prevent recurrence. Make sure to check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. These stretches can help ease sciatica pain and many also build strength while increasing flexibility:
- Bridging stretch: Lie flat on your back on the floor. Bend your knees, keeping feet flat on the ground. Squeeze the buttocks and pull the abdomen in toward your back, which presses the lower back down--so it’s flat on the floor. Push through your heels to raise your buttocks about one inch up from the ground. Hold for 10 seconds. Relax. Do a total of 8-10 repetitions.
- Knee toward chest: Still lying on your back, with knees bent and feet flat on floor, put a rolled towel behind your head to support your neck’s natural curve. Grab one leg just below your knee with both hands. Pull the leg slowly and gently toward your chest until you feel a good stretch (but not pain) through the back of the thigh, buttock and lower back. Hold 10-20 seconds. Relax then repeat on the other leg. Do 8-10 repetitions.
- Mini crunch: In the same starting position, lying on your back with bent knees. Cross your arms in front of the chest and slowly lift your shoulders just a few inches off the floor, pulling your abdomen in while tightening your buttock muscles. Lower shoulders and upper back slowly to the floor. Repeat 8–10 times.
- Cross-over stretch: Start by lying face up on the floor with arms extended to the side, legs straight. Bend right leg, so your right foot is next to the left knee. Now try to touch the ground with your right knee by lowering it toward the left, aiming for the ground on the opposite side of your left leg. At the same time, turn your head, looking to the right. Hold 5 seconds. Return bent left leg back flat on the ground. Now bend the left leg and twist it over the right (now straight) leg. Turn head to the left. Hold 5 seconds. Repeat 3 times per side.
- Seal stretch: Roll over onto your stomach and support your upper body with your elbows and forearms on the ground. Now push up through your hands while straightening your elbows. Let your back relax. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Relax and repeat 8-10 times.
- Cat stretch: Start on your hands and knees. Tighten stomach muscles, pulling your belly button in toward your back, curling your back into an arch toward the ceiling. Bring your chin toward your chest. Hold for 3 seconds. Then arch your back down toward the floor and bring your head up and back, looking up slightly without strain. Hold 3 seconds. Repeat 4 times, arching the back slowly and gently.
In addition to your stretches, work in some strength training for your body’s core and non-jarring cardio for overall fitness, in consultation with your physician. Be sure to get a proper diagnosis of your back pain. If you’d like a free back pain consultation with a local back specialist, contact the Illinois Back Institute, co-founded by Dr. Jeff Winternheimer, D.C. Ask about Dr. Jeff’s natural and proven-effective Functional Disc RehydrationTM treatment, which can rejuvenate the spinal discs and relieve or eliminate back pain. Visit the Illinois Back Institute online for more information.