For most people with sciatica, one of the best ways to achieve pain relief is with exercise.
No single treatment works for everyone, but the videos below demonstrate common exercises that have helped numerous people alleviate their symptoms:
1. Sciatica exercises for piriformis syndrome
If you're like most people, you had never heard of the piriformis muscle before it started causing you problems. These problems arise when your piriformis muscle spasms (referred to as piriformis syndrome), and this spasming may aggravate your sciatic nerve and send searing pain or numbness down your leg.
As a general rule, any exercise plan for sciatica-like symptoms caused by piriformis syndrome will incorporate stretches to loosen the muscle and increase your range of motion.
2. Seated chair hamstring stretch for sciatica relief
A common contributor to sciatica pain is tight hamstrings. This is because tight hamstrings limit the motion in your pelvis, which in turn places increased stress on the muscles in your lower back.
If you have lower back pain in addition to sciatica symptoms, select a hamstring stretch that is gentle on your lower back (like the one below). You can then slowly work your way up to a more advanced hamstring stretch as your pain subsides.
The seated chair hamstring stretch can be easily incorporated into your daily routine by associating your stretching with your mealtimes. Simply perform the stretch on each leg for 30 seconds before or after every meal.
3. Sciatica exercises for a herniated disc
A lumbar herniated disc is among the most common causes of sciatica. Symptoms can arise when the gel-like material inside a lumbar disc leaks out and irritates a nearby sciatic nerve root.
Exercises for sciatica symptoms caused by a lumbar herniated disc are typically intended to shift the pain from your your leg or foot to your lower back.
You do not need to perform all of the above exercises on a daily basis; only the ones that help move your pain towards your lower back. Additionally, you can typically perform any of the above exercises every 2 to 3 hours.
4. Sciatica exercises for isthmic spondylolisthesis
When there is a fracture in an isthmus in your lower spine, one of your vertebral bodies may slip forward onto the one beneath it; which is known as isthmic spondylolisthesis . This can in turn provoke painful sciatica symptoms.
You may be hesitant to exercise with isthmic spondylolisthesis, as symptoms can worsen simply by standing up, walking for a short time, or when bending backward. But the exercises below are specifically designed with these concerns in mind.
Stop right away if you experience significant pain while performing any of the exercises in the above video. The key to finding sciatica relief through exercise is to work around your pain, not through it.
Tips for exercising with sciatica
Before attempting any exercises for sciatica pain relief, consult with your doctor to formulate a plan tailored to your specific needs. Once you have a plan established, following these tips can help prevent injury and supply motivation:
- Begin your new exercise program slowly. You can' t resolve all your symptoms on the first day, and a controlled, gradual approach will produce the best results.
- Finding support can keep you on your journey to sciatica relief; so consider taking a class at your local park district or hiring a personal trainer.
- Applying heat therapy for 15 to 20 minutes prior to exercising can loosen up your muscles and make stretching easier.
If the above videos did not address the underlying cause of your sciatica, or you want to learn more about available treatments, you can find all our videos in our sciatica video library.