Sciatica is a specific collection of symptoms that occur when pressure is applied to your sciatic nerve. This pain can be debilitating and challenging to treat. When you feel the pain of sciatica, here are the best sciatica stretches to help you find relief.
Why are sciatica stretches so important?
Your sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve in the body. It originates from the lumbar, or lower, spine and runs through the buttocks and down both legs. Because it is so long, if you are experiencing sciatica, you may experience pain and symptoms along the entire length of the nerve.
Sciatica symptoms can include:
- Pain: Sharp and shooting or dull and persistent pain that may occur anywhere along the sciatic nerve, including the back, hips, thighs, and calves.
- Numbness: You may experience loss of sensation in any part of the back, hip, or leg.
- Pins and needles sensations: When numbness fades, you may experience tingling “pins and needles” sensations. These can range from mild to very unpleasant.
- Weakness: Weakness may be episodic or may occur and not recede.
In very rare cases, patients may experience loss of bowel or bladder control. This is considered a medical emergency, and patients should go to the emergency room immediately. This symptom can indicate involvement of the spinal cord, which can be permanent and very serious.
Sciatica is caused when an issue causes impingement or compression of your sciatic nerve. There are a number of causes of sciatic pain, including:
- Bulging or herniated discs
- Injury to the spine (as might occur in a car accident)
- Spinal tumor
- Spinal stenosis
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Osteoporosis and compression fractures
For some patients, sciatica stretches can help to relieve the pressure and pain of sciatica.
15 of the best sciatica stretches
Some of the best sciatica stretches work to relieve pressure on the nerve without adding extra stress anywhere else in the body. Yoga for sciatica is also available to everyone, at all levels of fitness.
Although these are some of the best sciatica stretches for pain relief, it is crucial to talk with your doctor before performing any of them. If you have underlying conditions that are causing your pain, it’s important to coordinate other treatments with your doctor.
It’s also important to listen to your body as you stretch. Sharp, stabbing pain or a stretch that increases pain may not be safe for you. Remember to keep your breath even and steady as you stretch. Back off when it feels unsafe.
That being said, once you have approval from your doctor, consider adding these sciatica stretches into your routine. You can bring many of these stretches together, or they can be completed one at a time.
1. Child’s pose
Of the best sciatica stretches, child’s pose is perhaps the easiest and gentlest way to ease pain. Start on all fours, then bring your toes to touch and open your knees as you sit your hips back on your heels. Rest your head on the floor in front of you or use a block if your forehead doesn’t touch.
If getting up and down from the floor is challenging for you, try child’s pose in bed. You can also use pillows as props to relieve pressure on your knees.
2. Knees to chest
This is another great exercise for sciatic leg pain that can be done before you even get out of bed in the morning.
Lie on your back, legs extended long. Inhale deeply, and on an exhale, use the strength of your core (not your lower back) to bring your right knee into your chest, gently hugging it into your body. Hold for three to five breaths, breathing deeply, then release on an exhale. Repeat with the left leg.
For an additional challenge, as you pull your knee into your chest, gently press the back of the leg into your hands. This gives a good isometric stretch that moves deep into the muscles of the lower back and glutes.
If this feels good, you can also bring both knees to your chest at the same time and gently rock side to side, massaging your spine. For women looking for sciatica stret