Daily stretching can be one of the best ways to alleviate radiating leg pain from a lumbar herniated disc. The following 3 stretches can help loosen your tight hamstring muscles for better lumbar spine support and reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve going down your leg. Just remember to stop if any exercise causes pain to worsen.
Seated hamstring stretch
This stretch is ideal for those with limited mobility or really tight hamstrings, as it is done in a seated position. To perform this stretch:
- Sit at the front edge of a firm, straight-back chair with both feet on the ground, 3 to 6 inches apart.
- Straighten one leg in front of you, with your heel on the ground and toes pointed at the ceiling.
- Keeping your back straight, lean forward over the outstretched leg. You should feel the stretch in the back of your thighs.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds, if possible. Then switch to the other leg.
To increase the stretch, prop your heel on a stool or second chair rather than the floor.
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 your back with your left leg flat on the ground and your right leg bent.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles while slowly lifting your right leg.
- Wrap a towel or yoga strap around the ball of your right foot. Hold the two ends of the strap with each hand.
- Gently push your right heel toward the ceiling as you straighten out your right leg. Keep your left leg against the ground.
- Once a stretch is felt, hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Release your right leg back to its original position. 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.
Standing hamstring stretch
You can also stretch your hamstrings while standing.
- Stand up straight with legs and feet together.
- Engage your lower abdomen, drawing your belly button toward your spine.
- Inhale to lengthen your spine, and as you exhale, fold forward from the hips, lowering down your torso. While folding forward, draw your shoulders away from your ears and keep your spine nice and long.
- Place your hands at your hips or on the front of your thighs, avoiding pressing your hands into the tops of your knees. Keep your legs engaged to protect your knees.
- Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.
- Inhale and keep a flat back to come out of this stretch.
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 pain secondary to a herniated disc. Start with gentle stretches, such as by holding for only 5 or 10 seconds, and gradually increase the stretches over time. For any pain that worsens or does not improve, see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis.