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Stretch the sciatic nerve, has this been tried?

MatthysMMatthys Posts: 8

I'm only 22 but have suffered from sciatica for over a year. I've tried pretty much everything short of needles and surgery. I decided to see a physio again, someone I know has been in the job for 30 years. He suggested a radical different approach as everything else has failed to work.

He's advised me to stretch INTO the pain (imagine the slouched back, leg straight, chin to chest, then pushing down to feel a horrible pain right down to my foot very strongly ). I've been doing this for about 4 days now, and the results are hard to judge. I still get out of bed sore and uncomfortable, but overall I would say the pain is slightly better. My pain is mostly mechanical, there's no inflammation as as soon as I get up or lie down the pain basically dissapears.

The physio thinks the nerve is being pinched somewhere in the lower back (I agree, though I'm no doctor), and that my muscles are plenty stretched already (I've become fairly flexible).

I just want to know if anyone has tried this technique, to stretch the sciatic nerve (keeping in mind I've spent the last 12 months trying to avoid that exact movement as it triggers the pain the most). And whether it's been successful/unsuccessful for them.

Highly appreciate any feedback


  • Mostly my exercises have been on all fours and raise one arm straight out in front and the opposite leg straight out in back so it's stretching but more so strengthening the core. But the leg is being stretched but mostly the pain is in the back. Mackenzie's Physio is mainly what causes more pain to your back but less pain to the extremities. Maybe he's working on building up your strength in your leg. There's an exercise page here on 'sciatica' just type in the blue box above to see illustrations. There are techniques mostly massage where they block the nerve signals at a certain point in your leg and there's isometrics also not sure if he's doing that? Have you had an MRI yet to show if there's back issues? I'm not a Therapist so don't know what all they do but stretching is part of physio but haven't personally experienced this exercise. Check out the exercise illustrations and see if you recognize what he's doing. Maybe a second opinion would help but wonder if you can get an MRI? Take care and wish someone could help you out. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • Sounds like you're describing neural flossing. I tried it months ago when my pain first started. I found several demonstration videos online. It was painful. I didn't get much relief from it, but not sure I did it long enough to notice a difference. And at that point I had not yet been diagnosed with my herniated disc so really didn't know what I was doing anyway. Good luck!
  • Thanks for the reply. I was CT scanned to reveal a minor bulge in the L5/S1 section (like most others) about 14 months ago. This exercise hurts to perform, but if I get 'slack' meaning I sit for a few hours (with a correct posture none the less) I will always get the pain right down to the back of my foot.

    I read that if your condition is improving, you will notice the pain going back up the leg. But without much effort I can always induce pain in the back of my foot.

    I'm not so hopeful abuot this new exercise, I played tennis today and it was painful after a little while.

    As for strengthening, I've been going to gym for 6 months. I exercise a lot, I am very healthy otherwise and do leg weights included in my gym routine. I run a lot, I swim a lot, I walk a lot, I stretch a lot (My right leg is much more flexible than my left just because it's the only one I focus on due to it feeling the pain). Including the one you mentioned about holding arm/leg out. I don't beleive (Though I'm no doctor) that muscle weakness or in-flexibility is my problem. The pain is unbearable if push hard enough (which is not very hard at all) when I perform the exercise from my first post.. but I'm enduring it with no other hope..

    It sucks.. hope this doesn't sound like a rant. I don't want surgery at my age. I will read up on neural flossing more. I found this as one description:

    “Either through hands on or personal movement exercises we can focus on releasing pressures (often caused by compacted or tight areas) on the neural pathways creating freedom for the nerves to be healthy and function correctly.”

    Which in theory sounds great. But if something is pinching my nerve in that area, how will this help. Wish I understood what my actual problem was - even my physio isn't sure what's definitively causing my sciatica. What are some good diagnostic tests to isolate the problem area better? Or is it just the bulged disc full stop?
  • I have been suffering from sciatica now for a year and after 3 epidurals and being a former gym rat PT can help you in getting stronger and in recovery but it is a very slow, back and forth process. The stretches especially the cobra type are suppose to help you in getting pressure off the sciatica nerve but everyone has a different place where it is being compressed. Also too much stretching in one direction will eventually create an imbalance if you do not do something in the other direction.

    In my case they found atrthtic isssues in the L5/L1 and a mild herniation in the L4/L5. According to the doctor my herniation is a 2 out of 10 and all say I should not be in this much pain. But one doc believes it is the position where mine as it is central as opposed to left or right. Most people will continue to complain of pain on one side. If your pain seems to switch sides it may be central which are usually the most stubborn of the group.

    PT is designed to strengthen the core but the other thing it is suppose to do is get blood into the affected area. The biggest problem with herniations healing is the lack of blood that is sent to the spine. This is why it can take months to years. The exercises are suppose to help the blood flow into those affected area. In the end I believe we just keep trying a steady diet of PT and pain management and hope we can heal naturally. For 10% of us that may not be in the cards.

    Also the other issue with back pain, even with all the ability on the medical community is our inability to really get a definitive diagnosis. It has been said and has been true in my case that unless the MRI just screams out where you are hurting, it becomes a guessing game where the doctor is hoping the 90% odds will be in his favor to just wait it out as opposed to doing more invasive tests.

  • Have you had a flexion/extension X-ray to check for spondylolisthesis? This is another common reason for sciatic pain, if the slippage is in the lower lumbar areas. If you should have this slippage, you should not be doing any exercises with your back in extension, such as the cobra pose that was mentioned previously.

    Or it could be piriformis syndrome. The piriformis muscle is one of the largest muscles in the buttock and the sciatic nerve runs directly underneath it. If for any reason this muscle becomes inflammed, it can put pressure on the sciatic nerve and irritate it. This pain can feel exactly like the "sciatic-type" pain referred from a damaged lumbar disc.



    Sometimes it is difficult to pin down the cause of a sciatic type pain.
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