The sciatic nerve starts in the lower back and branches off to run down both legs, ending in the feet. If any sort of pressure is put on the nerve it results in pain referred to as sciatica. When a disc in the spinal column becomes diseased or starts to deteriorate, for example, the protrusion of the disc may push against the nerve and result in pain. Likewise, a tightening of the Piriformis muscle—the muscle that runs perpendicular to the sciatic nerve—often results in pressure on the sciatic nerve and symptoms of sciatica.
Sciatica may manifest as a nagging pain in the lower back or as quick, sharp bolts of pain down either or both legs. The severity of the pain varies from mild to debilitating, with other symptoms of the condition being a tingling and numbness in the legs.
If you find yourself suffering from sciatica, you may want to try some of these stretches to help ease the symptoms:
1. Piriformis muscle stretch
As mentioned above, a tight Piriformis is one of the most common causes of sciatica. To stretch this muscle, sit on the floor with one leg stretched in front of you. Hold onto the ankle of your other leg and pull it back towards your chest. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and then repeat with the opposite leg.
2. Lower back and gluts stretch
Sit on the floor with both legs outstretched in front of you. Bend your right leg at the knee and cross it over your outstretched left leg so that your right ankle is resting on your left knee. Bend your upper body forward over your legs and hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat with your other leg.
3. Hip stretch
While seated on the floor, cross your right leg over your straightened left leg. Keeping your back straight, hug your right knee to your stomach with your left arm. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat with your other leg.
This exercise can help strengthen the spinal column, which will ease sciatica pain and may help to prevent further aggravation. Lie on your stomach with your arms and legs stretched out. Raise your right arm and your left leg simultaneously and hold for a few seconds before lowering them back to the ground. Repeat with the other side. Do about 10 reps daily.
Most stretches that focus on the lower back, hips, or legs will likely help with sciatica pain. If you experience increased pain while doing these exercises, however, stop immediately to ensure that you don’t further aggravate your injury.