Stretching to Relieve Sciatic Nerve Pain

Nerves of right leg, anterior and posterior as...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Your sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. It starts at the base of your skull and continues down your spine, hips, legs, knees and ankles.

Sciatica is a condition that causes severe pain due to a damage or pressure on this nerve. The tightening of muscles that surround the sciatic nerve commonly causes pressure. This mechanism makes it hard for the nerve to function properly and the compression can lead to pain or damage.

The pain is usually felt along the location of the nerve. Sciatic pain is described as sharp and shooting. It is also accompanied by a tingling sensation. And it can be quite debilitating.

Fortunately, you have a variety of treatment options that can help to relieve you of the pain. It is essential to get treatment, not only to control the pain but also to get the pressure off of the nerve. If you leave sciatica untreated, it may lead to complications that can affect your quality of life.

To reduce the inflammation and pain, medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers may be prescribed. While these are great for the acute sciatica, the meds do nothing to help reduce your chances of recurring sciatica. Unfortunately, for many, sciatica can become a chronic problem. You may have heard friends or relatives comment that their ‘sciatica is acting up again’.

Sciatic Nerve Treatment Program

With sciatica, recommendations for a treatment program will, in most instances, include controlled and progressive back stretches and exercises. These exercises will help to reduce the sciatic pain you currently have and provide the conditioning you need to help prevent recurrence. For this type of program, you will need to see a physical therapist, certified athletic trainer, a rehab physician or chiropractor.

Choosing the Right Stretching and Exercises

Sciatica itself is actually a set of symptoms involving the sciatic nerve. Some condition is causing nerve compression or irritation. These conditions can include things such as a herniated disc, spinal stenosis or other disorders involving the lower back.

In order to choose the most effective stretches and exercises, it is necessary to determine what is causing the sciatica. Once you have that information, you can target your stretching and exercise program to that condition. Always consult with your doctor before embarking on any exercise program.

Some Stretches for Common Sciatica

If you have what is known as “common sciatica”, there are some stretches you can do to reduce the inflammation and discomfort. Pelvic tilt, hamstring and piriformis muscle stretches are just some of the stretching exercises you can do. These are very effective because they target the areas near the sciatic nerve. You can perform one routine at a time or you can combine them.

Hamstring and Piriformis Muscle Stretch

When the hamstring is too tight, it can place pressure on the sciatic nerve that causes excruciating pain. A hamstring stretch works to loosen the muscles running down the back of your leg. You can easily do this by lying on your back with one leg up and pulling this leg towards you with the use of a towel or band.

The piriformis muscle is found deep inside the hip joint. It crosses over the sciatic nerve. When the piriformis is too tight, it can compress the sciatic nerve. Performing a sciatic stretch that can relax the piriformis muscle is beneficial. You can perform this by lying on your back and pulling one knee towards the chest on the opposite side.

Pelvic Tilt

A pelvic tilt strengthens the lower back and thigh muscles. It prevents these areas from squeezing the sciatic nerve. Executing a pelvic tilt is as easy as lying on your back with your knees bent while you repeatedly push your pelvis upward.

Stretching should be done on a regular basis, typically twice a day, for it to be effective. Be certain to use the right form so as not to injure yourself. Your physical therapist or trainer can work with you on that.