If you suffer from pain to the sciatic nerve, also known as sciatica, there are many exercises that your therapist will assign to you. While these exercises are not meant solely to treat sciatica they will prove effective once a sciatica diagnosis has been confirmed.
Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve—traveling the length of the human body from the toes to the lower region of the spine—is inflamed, compressed or pinched. This nerve path is one of the largest in the body, which means any injury to this nerve can cause quite a lot of pain in the lower region of the body.
Many physical therapists and chiropractors agree that concentrated exercises are the most effective natural treatment. These exercises may be done for just a few days or for several months until the pain has subsided. There is no predetermined period of time in which these exercises will relieve sciatic pain so you will have to work with your health care professional to treat the pain during this time.
Before you begin any concentrated exercises to treat sciatic pain you should get a diagnosis from your physician. Performing improper exercises, or performing them correctly, can exacerbate the pain you feel.
Most physical therapists agree that stretching exercises are the most effective way to treat sciatic pain. Due to the fact that the sciatic nerve covers such a large quantity of the human body, several different muscles will need to be worked to relieve the pain. Before you begin these exercises you will need a flat surface, with an exercise mat if possible to prevent slipping.
The first concentrated exercise is a total back stretch. To perform this stretch, lie on your back, pulling both knees to your chest. With your knees as close to your chest as possible, grab your legs behind the knees and pull them closer to you. Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds before releasing. Repeat as many times as your physical therapist recommends.
The next back muscle you want to stretch is your hamstrings, which are the large muscles at the back of the thigh. Start this stretch by lying on your back on a flat sturdy flat surface. Pull your legs in one at a time by holding beneath the knee with your hands. Pull in until you feel the hamstring muscle stretching then hold for 5 seconds. Pull in a little further—but not so far that you’re in pain—and hold an addition 5 to 10 seconds. Perform this exercise twice; once with the opposite foot flat on the ground and the other with the leg not in use straight ahead.
Next you’ll need an exercise to stretch the quadriceps, which are the large muscles located in the front of the thigh. This particular stretch can be performed lying flat on your stomach or standing. Depending on your flexibility, standing may be the easier option. Place one hand on a chair or wall to steady your balance and with the other hand grab your foot, pulling the heel in towards your buttocks. Hold about 15 seconds and repeat with the other leg.
Another concentrated exercise for sciatic pain treatment is the yoga pose known as ‘downward facing dog’. This exercise will relax your back and leg muscles at the same time, while stretching them. Start this stretch by kneeling on the floor on your hands and knees so that your hips and knees are aligned. Place your hands flat on the floor, slightly in front of your shoulders. Lift your knees off the ground and make sure your buttocks is facing the ceiling, then slowly begin to straighten your legs. Make sure you are pressing your heels into the ground as you do this.
If done correctly, your body will look like an upside down ‘V’.
When performing these exercises make sure you are exhaling through the stretch and inhaling before beginning again. You don’t want to forget to breathe or you risk greater injury. Also, avoid bouncing through these exercises as it can wreak havoc on your back muscles.
There are many other stretches and exercises to relieve sciatic pain and corresponding lower back pain. If flexibility or weight is a hindrance to stretching, consider doing stretches in the water to relieve the tension. Ask your physical therapist what exercises can be performed in the water to relieve sciatic pain.
Written By: Updated: June 28,2011