Sciatica Stretches

Are you suffering from a radiating pain down your leg? You may be experiencing a symptom of sciatica, a condition caused by a compression of your sciatic nerve. In this guide, we explore the most common causes, symptoms and treatments of sciatica.

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Krista Bugden Human Kinetics & Rehab Exercise Expert
Medically reviewed by 

Typical Symptoms of Sciatica
Typical Causes of Sciatica
Stretches and Exercises for Relieving Sciatic Pain
Other Treatment Options for Sciatica
Preventing Sciatic Pain in the Future
Say Goodbye to Sciatica

Sciatica is a common and painful condition. It often causes radiating pain down the leg, which can be debilitating to the point that you don’t want to move. This can disrupt your life and prevent you from participating in the activities you enjoy.

About 13-40% of people will experience sciatica at some point in their lives. Sciatica happens when the sciatic nerve becomes compressed. The sciatic nerve is a large nerve that runs from your lower back, through the buttocks, down your legs, all the way down to your feet. Usually, treatment entails addressing whatever underlying condition is causing sciatica in the first place.

In this article, we dive into the typical symptoms and causes associated with sciatica, as well as the top five stretches and exercises you can do to help ease your symptoms.

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Typical Symptoms of Sciatica

Technically, sciatica is a symptom of another underlying condition. It happens when the sciatic nerve becomes compressed. This results in the following symptoms.

  • Burning or shooting pain in the buttocks and down the leg.
  • Numbness.
  • Weakness.
  • Symptoms impacting only one leg.
  • Pain or symptoms that become worse when sitting, coughing, lying down, or standing up.

Typical Causes of Sciatica

Sciatica occurs due to various causes. Whatever condition or situation causes the sciatic nerve to become compressed results in sciatica and its symptoms. Common and typical causes of sciatica include:+ A herniated disc in the lumbar region.+ A muscle spasm.+ Sacroiliac joint dysfunction.+ Degenerative disc disease in the lumbar region.

The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated disc. A herniated disc may happen for an unknown reason. Yet, excess weight, age-related changes, and a sedentary lifestyle may significantly contribute to a herniated disc and also sciatica.

Stretches and Exercises for Relieving Sciatic Pain

So, what stretches and exercises can you do at home to help relieve your sciatic pain? Here are our top 5:

  1. Lying controlled twist
    3 reps x 1 sets

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    • Lie on your back with bent knees and your feet placed flat on the floor.
    • Hold your arms out to the sides.
    • Let both legs fall to one side so that the back rotates.
    • Tilt your pelvis backward and suck in your belly button.
    • Using your back muscles, slowly rotate your back to the original position.
    • Make sure that the rotation is done such that the upper back touches the floor first and the tailbone last.
    • The exercise should improve your control of each backbone.
    • Repeat the exercise 3 times to each side.
  2. Standing hamstring stretch
    30 sec. x 3 sets

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    • Put your foot up on a chair and bend your knee slightly.
    • Keep the other leg outstretched.
    • Bend forward until you feel it stretching in the hamstrings.
    • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and perform 3 repetitions with each leg.
  3. Stability exercise on knees I
    10 reps x 1 sets

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    • Lie on your hands and knees.
    • Pull the pelvis up and the navel in while keeping the body stable.
    • Alternate between lifting your right arm, left arm, right leg and left leg slightly from the ground.
    • The entire series represents one repetition.
    • Perform 10 repetitions.
  4. Lying glute stretch
    30 sec. x 3 sets

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    • Lie on your back and grab your knee with the hand on the same side.
    • Use the other hand to slowly pull your lower leg and knee towards the opposite shoulder.
    • Make sure your knee is bent at a 90-degree angle.
    • Repeat the exercise with both legs.
    • Keep the stretch for 30 seconds with both the left and right leg.
    • Perform 3 sets.
  5. Leg lift on the floor I
    5 reps x 1 sets

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    • Lie on your back with bent knees and your feet placed flat on the floor.
    • Place your hands on your lower back and press it down towards the floor by sucking in your belly and flexing your abdominal muscles.
    • Lift your feet slightly up from the floor and hold the position for 2-4 seconds and then lower them again.
    • Make sure that your hands do not lose contact with your lower back.
    • Perform 5 repetitions.

Other Treatment Options for Sciatica

Usually, sciatica is quite treatable without surgery. Acute forms of sciatica often get better within four to six weeks through proper care strategies. Other treatments, outside of exercise, include:

1. Physical Therapy

Physical therapy aims to help improve function, increase strength, restore mobility, and get you back to your regular activities. For individuals experiencing sciatica, this often involves manual therapy, such as spinal traction which creates space between the spinal bones, taking any pressure off of the sciatic nerve. Your physiotherapist will also show you certain exercises that can help and advise you on what you should and shouldn’t do throughout your recovery.

2. Medications

Over-the-counter medications can help with acute sciatic pain. These may include NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as ibuprofen. Prescribed medications that your doctor may recommend include antidepressants, oral steroids, and opioid painkillers.

3. Massage Therapy

Massage can help alleviate muscle spasms causing sciatica. In turn, you may experience pain relief from increased blood flow, relaxation, and the stimulation of endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers.

4. Lifestyle Changes

Treatment may also involve improving your lifestyle. For instance, sedentary behavior may lead to an increased risk of experiencing sciatica symptoms. You can lower this risk with regular movement and exercise. Further, maintaining a good posture throughout your day can help prevent any muscle imbalances or increased tension from developing. Proper lifting techniques, especially if you have a labor-intensive job, should be followed every time.

5. Surgery

In severe cases and if other treatment strategies have failed to work, surgery may be considered. However, it is very rare and often a last resort.

Preventing Sciatic Pain in the Future

Preventing sciatica comes down to taking care of your physical health in the best way possible. If you experience an injury, ensure you address it through proper strengthening and stretching movements. Maintain a healthy weight through regular exercise and proper nutrition. If you work at a computer all day, make stretching and strengthening exercises part of your routine and remember to keep a good posture as you work. And better yet, try to avoid sitting for long durations. Instead, aim to take a break every hour or two.

When looking at your exercise regime and where you can improve, focus on your core. A weak core, including the abdominals, postural muscles, and glutes, can quickly lead to back issues, such as sciatica.

Your core are the muscles that support your spine and contribute to good spinal health. By improving the strength and flexibility of these muscles, you may prevent back pain - or at least reduce the risk.

By moving more, you may also become more aware of your body. This can help prevent sciatic through better posture and better movements, such as proper form when you go to lift a heavy object. All in all, sciatica does not have to become a recurring problem that haunts you throughout your life. You can proactively take steps toward preventing it, while also improving your overall health.

When to See a Doctor About Your Sciatic Pain

Acute or mild sciatica will frequently go away with time. However, if you are experiencing severe pain or weakness in the buttocks and legs, have increasing sciatic pain following a traumatic accident or injury, or have lost bowel or bladder control, seek out immediate medical attention. Although rare, these are a sign of a potentially more serious problem.

Say Goodbye to Sciatica

Sciatica frequently resolves within four to six weeks with proper care and exercise. Use the above five stretches and movements to help cope with your pain and alleviate your symptoms. If pain occurs during any movement, stop performing the exercise. Listen to your body and don’t force yourself beyond the point of pain. As with any exercise, it’s also important to stay hydrated. This can help prevent muscle cramping or spasms.

Need some help or guidance with your exercises? Injurymap is here to help. Take the reins on your recovery and use Injurymap to help reduce your sciatic pain and symptoms. With the help of rehab industry experts, the Injurymap app can transform your recovery journey, making you feel more confident with the exercises and treatment paths you choose to perform. Finally, say goodbye to pain and hello to a better life.

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About the author

Krista Bugden has worked as a Rehab Exercise Expert at a physiotherapist clinic in Ottawa, Canada for the past 4 years. She has an Honours Bachelor Degree in Human Kinetics from the University of Ottawa. She uses her extensive knowledge in this area to educate others through well-researched and informative articles. Her passions include helping others and inspiring each person she meets to get the most out of their life.