Stretching and exercise can help relieve compression on the sciatic nerve root, which leads to sciatica pain. However, many stretches and exercises are too challenging for older adults. Here are 4 effective stretches and exercises that are gentle on the body and easy to perform—and most importantly, can help ease your sciatica pain.
While this stretch works better on a yoga mat, you can perform it on a firm mattress if that’s easier for you.
- To begin, lie on your back. Bend your knees so both feet are flat on the surface with toes pointed forward.
- Pull your belly button in so your pelvis pushes toward the ceiling and your back flattens against the surface.
- Hold this position for 20 seconds, and then relax. Try to do this stretch 10 times.
Be sure to rely on your core muscles—and not to push with your legs—when you tilt your pelvis.
The bridge is an exercise similar to the pelvic tilt.
- Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the surface.
- Slowly lift your buttocks up, pushing through your heels as you raise your pelvis toward the ceiling.
- When your thighs and torso align, hold this stretch for 8 to 10 seconds (less if you’re just starting out), then slowly lower back down to starting position.
As your strength develops, work toward the goal of completing 2 sets of 10 bridges.
Seated hamstring stretch
Tight hamstrings can worsen sciatica pain. Increasing the flexibility at the back of your legs can help ease—and further prevent—the pain. You can do this stretch while seated in a chair:
- Sit on the edge of a chair with 1 foot flat on the floor. Extend the other leg straight out in front of you with the heel on the ground and toes flexed up.
- Keeping your upper back straight, lean forward in your seat until you feel a gentle stretch behind your leg.
- Hold this stretch for 20 seconds and then return to starting position. Work up to completing 3 repetitions.
Stretching your hamstring muscles is one of the most effective and simple steps you can take for managing sciatica pain.
Prone leg raise
- Lie prone, flat on your stomach, either on a yoga mat or the surface of a mattress. Rest your face on your folded arms in front of you.
- Tighten your lower stomach muscles.
- Raise a leg behind you, bending your knee slightly and without arching your back or neck. Your leg should be at a low level and does not have to come far off the ground.
- Hold for about 5 seconds, then slowly lower to starting position.
As your strength builds, try to do 2 sets of 10 leg raises.
The above stretches and exercises won’t alleviate sciatica pain for everyone. But they are worth trying and discussing with your doctor or physical therapist.