The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve in the body, beginning at the lower back, running right through your pelvis and buttocks and ending at your lowest limb. Compression or irritation of one of the roots of the sciatic nerve can cause a lot of pain in the lower back and legs. This pain is known as a condition called Sciatica.

How exercise provides sciatica relief

It may seem somewhat counterintuitive to do exercise when in pain, but inactivity often makes the pain worse. Without movement in the back muscles and spinal structures, deconditioning and weakening occurs, meaning they are less able to support the back.  Practicing exercise for sciatica is also good for the health of the spinal discs.

Specific Sciatica stretches and exercises

A lot of research has been done to determine which exercises are best for those suffering from sciatica and this list should help provide you with some relief. These exercises can be done passively or actively. Therefore, if you are unable to do them yourself, a physiotherapist or even a friend can help.

Knee to Chest Stretch

This stretch should help with the lower back pain and improve the flexibility in the area.

Bend your knee towards your chest and hold it with both hands.
Hold it there for 20-30 seconds, increasing the stretch slightly as comfort allows.
Repeat this three times and then alternate legs.

Tip: Try not to tense the upper part of your body.

Water Leg Lifts

Exercising in water is recommended if you suffer from sciatica, the leg lifts can help to work the abdominal muscles and stretches the legs.

Rest your back on the edge of the pool and use both arms to support your weight on the side.
Raise both of your legs or bend your knees to the chest.
Do 10 lifts with your legs straight and then 10 with your knees bent.

Tip:  Try to tighten your abdominal muscles as you do so.

Extensions

Back extensions will help to stretch and mobilise the spine.
Lie on your stomach and then prop yourself up with your hands.
Hold this pose for 5-10 seconds and you should feel a stretch in your abdominal muscles.
Repeat this 8-10 times.

Tip: Don’t bend your neck too far back and keep your hips resting on the floor.

Hamstring Stretch

Strengthening and lengthening your hamstring muscles can help ease your pain.
Raise one leg onto something stable and keep it straight with your toes pointed up.
Hold for 20-30 seconds.
Repeat this two or three times with each leg.

Tip: You should only stretch as far as is comfortable.

Sciatic Mobilising Stretch

This stretch is aimed at the hamstrings again, but also directly mobilises the sciatic nerve.

Lie on your back with both of your knees bent on the floor.
Bring one knee towards your chest and grip your hamstring with your hands underneath your knee.
Then slowly straighten your leg and bring it further towards you.
Hold this position for 20-30 seconds.
Repeat this 2-3 times and alternate legs.

Tip: Don’t put too much pressure on your back into the floor as you stretch.

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