The sciatic pain that can radiate down your leg when you have a lumbar herniated disc can make you want to stay immobile.
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But to find relief from pain, you actually need to do the opposite. Daily stretching—done carefully—is one of the best ways to tackle herniated disc pain.
These three hamstring stretches can help you strengthen your hamstring muscles, which in turn supports your core and back. They're fairly safe, but avoid doing them if they cause sudden, acute pain or if you're having a flare of sciatica pain.
Seated chair stretch
This stretch is ideal for those with limited mobility or exceptionally tight hamstrings, as it is done in a seated position. To perform this stretch:
- Sit on a chair with another chair across from you.
- Rest one foot on the ground and the other upon the chair across from you.
- Straighten the back and lean forward over the extended leg.
- Once a stretch is felt in the upper, rear thigh, hold that position for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Switch legs and repeat at least three times per leg.
Beginning each day with this stretch can help to gradually loosen and strengthen the hamstring muscle.
Towel hamstring stretch
If you prefer to stretch while lying down, the towel hamstring stretch may be a good option. To perform this stretch:
- Lie on the floor with one leg flat.
- Tighten the abdominal muscles while lifting the opposite leg, keeping it straight.
- Wrap a towel or belt around the instep of the elevated leg, using it to pull the leg back towards you.
- Once a stretch is felt, hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Switch legs and repeat at least 3 times per leg.
To make the stretch more comfortable, lie on a soft surface such as carpet or a yoga mat, or on a padded physical therapy table at your gym.
Wall hamstring stretch
Some people find the towel hamstring stretch is difficult to do because of the effort involved in lifting your leg up without support. If this is the case, you may want to have the extra stability of a solid surface—like a wall or door jamb—to rest your raised leg against. Here is how it's done:
- Lie on the floor near the corner of a wall or a door jamb.
- Leaving one leg straight on the ground, place the other against the wall, bent at the knee.
- Slowly straighten the leg against the wall while keeping your hips on the floor.
- Hold your leg stretched against the wall for about 15 to 30 seconds.
- Repeat 2 to 3 times for each leg.
When doing any stretches, only go into the stretch as far as is comfortable for you—never stretch to the point of pain. Hamstrings can become quite stiff and tight over time, especially if you have herniated disc pain and have limited your amount of exercise.