As anyone who has experienced it will tell you, there are few conditions as agonizing and debilitating as sciatica pain. It occurs when the sciatic nerve – which extends all the way from your lower back to your legs — becomes pinched. It is usually caused by a herniated disc in the spine but can also be caused by spinal stenosis (the narrowing of the spine canal), an injury, being sedentary for too long, being overweight, and more. The pain associated with sciatica begins in the lower back and travels down the hip, buttock, and leg.
Sciatica pain can also develop due to piriformis syndrome, a condition in which the muscle that extends from your buttocks at the edge of your spine to your thigh spasms and traps the sciatic nerve. Fortunately, there is a way to alleviate most sciatica pain by doing stretches that rotate the hip, thereby relieving pressure on the sciatic nerve and providing relief.
Stretching Exercises to Relieve Sciatica Pain
Here are 10 physical therapy exercises you can do at home:
- Reclining pigeon pose–Lie on your back and bring your right leg up to a right angle. Clasp both of your hands behind the painful thigh and lock your fingers. Lift your left leg and place your right ankle on top of your left knee. Hold that position for several seconds to help stretch the piriformis muscle. Then repeat with the other leg.
- Sitting pigeon pose–This exercise stretches your glutes and lower back. While sitting on the floor with your legs stretched out straight in front of you, bend your right leg, placing your right ankle on top of your left knee. Lean forward and allow your upper body to reach toward your thigh. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds, then repeat it on the other side.
- Forward pigeon pose–Start by kneeling on the floor on all fours. Raise your right leg and move it forward on the ground to the front of your body with your lower leg on the ground and horizontal to your body. Your right foot will be in front of your left knee while your right knee remains to the right. Now, stretch your left leg out all the way behind you on the floor while keeping the top of your foot on the ground with your toes pointing back. Gradually shift your body weight from your arms to your legs, so that they support your weight. Now, sit up straight with your hands on either side of your legs. Next, take a deep breath and, as you exhale, lean your upper body forward over your front leg. Repeat on the other side.
- Knee to opposite shoulder–For this exercise, lie on your back with your legs extended and your feet flexed upward. Then, bend your right leg and clasp your hands around the knee and gently pull your right leg across your body toward your left shoulder, holding it there for 30 seconds. Then, push your knee, so your leg returns to its starting position. Repeat this motion three times, then switch legs.
- Sitting spinal stretch– This stretch is designed to create space in the spine to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve. Start by sitting on the floor with your legs extended straight out and your feet flexed upward. Then, bend your right knee and place your foot flat on the floor on the outside of your opposite knee. You can place your left elbow on the outside of your right knee to enable you to gently turn your body toward the right. Hold this position for 30 seconds, repeat it three times, then switch sides.
- Standing hamstring stretch–To help ease sciatica pain and tightness in your hamstring muscles, place your right foot on an elevated surface (e.g., a chair or step) at or below your hip level and flex your foot, so your toes and leg are straight. Now, bend your body forward slightly toward your foot. Go as far as you can, but not so far that you feel pain. You should release the hip of your raised leg downward rather than lifting it up. Hold this position for at least 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
- Basic seated stretch–Begin by sitting down on a chair and crossing the leg that hurts over the knee of the other leg. Next, bend forward with your chest but try to hold your spine straight. If you feel pain, stop. Otherwise, hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat the exercise with your other leg.
- Standing piriformis stretch– You can perform this stretch without support or by placing your feet about 24 inches from a wall. Place your painful leg over the knee of your other leg while standing. Then, bend your standing leg and try to form the number 4 with your hips lowered to the ground at a 45-degree angle. Next, bend your waist and swing your arms down while keeping your back straight. Remain in this position for 30 to 60 seconds, then switch legs and repeat.
- Groin and long abductor muscle stretch–Sit down on the floor with your legs spread out straight as far apart as possible. Place your hands on the floor in front of you, so as to angle your torso toward the floor. Lean forward with your elbows on the floor. Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds, unless you feel pain.
- Scissor hamstring stretch–For this standing exercise, start by placing your right foot about three feet behind your left foot. Pull your hips forward and push your shoulders back. You can either place your hands on your hips or use a chair to maintain balance. Push your torso a bit over your front leg by bending your waist, keeping your back straight, and your weight on your front leg. Hold this position for five to 10 seconds, then repeat the stretch using your opposite leg. Complete the stretch for each leg three to five times.
Physical Therapist in Mount Ayr, Iowa
At Ringgold County Hospital in Mount Ayr, Iowa, we have highly trained rehabilitation therapists that can teach you exercises designed to help you heal better, faster, and more completely. To find out more about our personalized rehab services, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and more, call our Rehabilitation Department at (641) 464-4428. Or request an appointment using our convenient online form now.