Most people with sciatica problems will benefit from a regular routine of hamstring stretching. Tightness in the hamstrings places increased stress on the low back and often aggravates or even causes some of the conditions that lead to sciatica symptoms and/or low back pain.

Most people with sciatica can benefit from hamstring stretches that are easy on the low back.
Seated Chair Hamstring Stretch for Sciatica Relief Video

The hamstrings are a group of three muscles located in the back of the thigh. They run from the pelvis down to the knee, and help bend the knee and extend the hip. Because most daily activities do not stretch the hamstrings, they are often overly tight and specific stretching exercises are needed to keep them healthy and extended.

Keys to effective hamstring stretches:

  • When doing any type of hamstring stretches, patients should avoid bouncing, which can trigger a muscle spasm. Instead, enter the stretch gently and hold it.
  • Start with holding the hamstring stretch for 10 seconds, and gradually increase to 30 seconds.
  • Remember to breathe while holding the stretch.
  • Find the position that is most comfortable to perform the stretching. Depending on the patient's specific medical condition and level of pain, the lying down position may be preferable and comfortable. In particular, patients with low back pain or sciatica should choose whichever position is most tolerable for their back while still giving a gentle stretch.
  • Perform hamstring stretches twice daily. Many people find it is helpful to tie the stretching activity to something else they do twice daily, such as brushing the teeth. If hamstring stretching is only done before exercising, most people will not do it enough.
  • Try to warm up before stretching. A 10 minute walk will help get blood flowing to the hamstring muscles.

The towel hamstring stretch begins flat on the back. Watch: Supine Hamstring Stretch (Towel Hamstring Stretch) for Low Back Pain and Sciatica Relief Video

As a general guideline, if there is any real pain while stretching stop and consult with a doctor or physical therapist.

See Physical Therapy and Exercise for Sciatica

If, after trying stretching and finding it is too difficult, consider trying these and other stretching exercises as part of a water therapy program. The warm water in the pool provides both support and gentle resistance.