Sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, originates in the lower back, radiates deep into the buttock, and travels down the leg.
Sciatica itself is not a condition, but a very uncomfortable symptom of many potential problems in the back, pelvis, hip and typically affects only one side of your body.
Sciatic nerve pain can be mild or so excruciating and debilitating that a person with sciatica may have trouble standing, sitting, or even sleeping.
There is a range of treatments for sciatica, including many exercises that may help to ease the pain, the specific sciatica exercises serve two main purposes:
- Reduce sciatic nerve pain in the near term
- Provide conditioning to prevent future sciatica flare-ups
Stretches for sciatica pain relief
Stretching is an important part of any routine, certain stretches may provide some relief for people experiencing sciatica-related pain.
Anecdotally, most people with sciatica do find stretching properly is a great way to help alleviate the symptoms associated with sciatica.
However, if you start to feel any more pain after doing any sciatica stretches, stop and consult a professional to avoid further injury.
A doctor or physical therapist may recommend that people developing a daily routine of these gentle stretches to resolve symptoms now and prevent pain in the future:
Knees to Chest
- Lay flat on your back with your knees bent and soles of the feet on the floor, this is called the supine position.
- Gently raise one bent knee up and then the other, interlace your fingers just under the knee, slowly hug your knees into the chest.
- For best results, hold for 30 seconds then return your leg to the floor.
- Do the stretch about 5 times, one or two times per day or as needed.
Cobra or Modified Cobra
- Lie prone (on your stomach) on an exercise mat or floor, legs extended and together, elbows bent with palms resting on the floor by the chest.
- To perform this modified cobra, gently exhale and press your hips into the mat or floor and pull your chest away from the ground to about 45 degrees while keeping your hips stable.
- To carry out a full cobra, fully straighten the elbows, lifting the chest further off the floor, stretch the muscles in your chest and abdominal region.
- Hold for 5 deep breath at the top and return to the starting position.
- Repeat this exercise 10 times, one or two times per day or as needed.
Seated Spinal Twist
- Sit up tall on the floor with your legs together, straight out in front of you and your hands resting on your thighs.
- Bend one leg at the knee then cross your right leg over and place your foot next to your left thigh, you should feel as though you’re sitting in a tight half cross-legged position.
- Placing the opposite elbow on the outside of the bent knee, take a deep breath and twist towards the bent knee, with each exhale, twist your body further.
- For best results, hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Gently release from the pose, return to the starting position and then repeat on the other side.
- Repeat this exercise 5 times each side (10 times for both side), one or two times per day or as needed.
Standing Hamstring Stretch
- Perform this stretch while standing near a step, stair, or raised surface.
- Start by standing tall with feet together, then lift the affected leg straight out in front of you and rest the heel on a slightly raised surface, such as a stair or curb.
- Keeping the knee straight but soft, keeping the spine straight, bend at the hip to bring the chest toward the thigh until you feel a stretch in the back of the leg.
- Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds before releasing.
- Return to the starting position then repeat on the other side.
- Repeat this stretch 3 times each side (6 times for both side), one or two times per day or as needed.
Seated Hip Stretch
- Sit in a chair with your feet on the floor and knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Then raise the affected leg up and cross that ankle over the opposite knee, and sit up straight and tall.
- Gently lean forward, keeping the back straight and reaching out with the torso until you feel a stretch in the right glute and hip, press down to deepen the stretch.
- Breathing deeply and holding for 15 to 30 seconds before releasing.
- Repeat 8 to 10 times. Then do the same exercise with the other side.
- Repeat one or two times per day or as needed.
Lying Figure-Four Stretch
- Lie on your back with legs bent. Raise your right ankle, then cross right ankle over left knee.
- Using both hands, lace your fingers behind your left thigh then gently pull the left leg toward you to activate the stretch on the right side, keeping your head and back on the floor.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, keeping upper body flat against floor.
- Relax, then repeat with the other leg.
- Repeat this stretch 5 times each side (10 times for both side), one or two times per day or as needed.