With painful back conditions, comes painful symptoms, including sciatica. Sciatica occurs when pressure is put on the sciatic nerve and it causes pain radiating down the leg. Unfortunately, there are many conditions that could be causing sciatic pain, including a herniated disc, spondylosis, spondylolisthesis, and spinal tumors.
The natural response to this type of pain is to take it easy and rest until it gets better, but that is not the answer. Exercise is actually better for relieving sciatic pain than bed rest. A day or two of rest after a sciatic pain flare-up is OK, but beyond that time period, inactivity will only make the pain worse. Without exercise and movement, the back muscles and spinal structures become deconditioned and less able to support the back.
Exercises for sciatica pain relief
Core muscle strengthening
Stronger core muscles mean greater spine protection in the future. There are many options for core exercises including, but not limited to:
If you experience frequent back pain, you may want to try modified versions of these exercises. It’s also a good idea to get exercise tips from your doctor or physical therapist before trying these on your own. Our New Jersey spine center would be happy to find the best treatment option for you.
Yoga poses, like pigeon, are often very helpful for all types of back pain. The varying pigeon poses are particularly good for sciatic pain because they work to open the hips. This stretches the tiny piriformis muscle, which can sometimes become inflamed and put pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Pigeon poses include:
Standing hamstring stretch
Most stretching exercises are beneficial for back pain relief. When muscles are tight, it’s harder for them to do their job in protecting your back. Regardless of what condition is causing your sciatic pain, you can benefit from routine hamstring stretches. Overly tight hamstrings increase the stress on the low back and can aggravate your sciatica. A standing hamstring stretch is an exercise that can be done anywhere. Simply place your foot on an elevated surface and bend your body forward toward your foot. Watch the video here to make sure you’re doing it correctly.
Sitting spinal stretch
Your sciatica pain could be triggered when the vertebrae in your spine compress. When you do a seated spinal stretch, it creates space in the spine to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve. This stretch is done by:
- Sitting on the ground with legs straight out and feet flexed upward
- Bending one knee up and placing your foot on the floor on the outside of your opposite knee
- Placing your opposite elbow on the outside of the bent knee to help you turn your body slightly
- Holding for 30 seconds and repeating on the other side
Watch the video here to make sure you’re doing it correctly.
Aerobic exercises, like walking, are simple and low impact and are encouraged for general body fitness. Walking is great for the low back and can provide all the benefits of an aerobic workout. It is recommended to gradually work toward doing up to three miles of walking at a brisk pace per day.
These exercises are beneficial to try on your own at home; however, it is always best to get a doctor’s opinion before beginning any exercise program. If you have not seen a doctor about your pain yet, we urge you to make an appointment at our New Jersey spine center to get a proper diagnosis, and rule out any more serious problems.