Stretches for sciatica and back pain

Lower back pain and sciatica are two problems we see regularly in the acupuncture clinic. These common conditions can be extremely uncomfortable and have a serious impact on your ability to carry out even simple tasks.

Although acupuncture can speed up the healing process and offer some much-needed pain relief, patients should also practice sciatica exercises and stretches at home between appointments. Regular exercise can help to improve strength and flexibility, and is one of the most important forms of sciatica pain management.

In this article, we will look at what causes sciatica to flare up, some of the best stretches for lower back pain and sciatica, and how to do them safely at home.

What Causes Sciatica to Flare Up?

Sciatica flares up when the sciatic nerve is irritated in some way. The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back to the toes, which is why sciatica can cause tingling or numbness in the legs and feet as well as lower back pain.

Sciatica is usually a result of excess pressure on the sciatic nerve due to a back problem such as a prolapsed disc, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, or a back injury.

Exercise for Sciatica Pain Management

If you have sciatica, it is essential that you stay mobile and participate in some gentle exercise every day. Some of the best sciatica exercises include walking, swimming, and yoga. There are also a number of specific stretches for lower back pain and sciatica which can really help when done on a daily basis.

In order for your sciatica exercises to be effective, it is important to do them correctly. Exercising with poor technique could mean that your symptoms will not get any better. In some cases, they might even become worse.

Therefore, it is a good idea to have your technique checked by a physical therapist or other qualified professional before doing sciatica exercises for the first time.

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The Best Stretches for Lower Back Pain and Sciatica

There are a number of lower back pain and sciatica exercises which you can try safely at home. Remember to take it slowly at first, and gradually build up to doing more as you feel more comfortable.

If at any point during these exercises you experience increased pain, stop immediately and contact your physical therapist or healthcare provider.

1. Knee to Chest

This is one of the best stretches for the lower back and is an important exercise for sciatica pain management.

Lie down with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, approximately hip width apart

Raise your head slightly using a book, yoga block, or flat cushion

Relax your shoulders and tuck your chin in to your chest

Slowly pull one knee up toward your chest

Hold for 20–30 seconds

Slowly return your foot to the floor and repeat with the opposite leg

Repeat 2–3 times on each side

 

2. Sciatic Mobilizer

Another great sciatica exercise, this stretch benefits the hamstrings and keeps the legs flexible.

Lie down with your knees bent and feet flat, around hip width apart

Raise your head using a book, yoga block, or flat cushion

Relax your shoulders and tuck your chin in to your chest

Slowly pull one knee up toward your chest

Hold onto the back of your thigh and slowly straighten your leg

Hold for 20–30 seconds

Slowly return your foot to its original position and repeat with the opposite leg

Repeat 2–3 times on each side

 

3. Gluteal stretch

This deep stretch can be felt in the backs of the thighs and gluteal muscles (buttocks). These two areas are frequently affected by sciatica pain.

Lie on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat and hip width apart

Raise your head using a book, yoga block, or flat cushion

Relax your shoulders and tuck in your chin

Slowly pull your left knee up and rest your ankle on your right thigh

Loop your hands around your right thigh and pull the leg up toward your chest

Keep your lower back on the floor and your hips straight

Hold for 20–30 seconds

Slowly release and repeat with the opposite leg

Repeat 2–3 times on each side

 

4. Back Extension

This is a great stretch for lower back pain and may be especially helpful if your symptoms are caused by a prolapsed disc.

Lie on your stomach with your forearms on the floor, elbows bent and tucked in to your sides

Keep your neck straight and your lower body relaxed

Keeping your forearms on the floor, slowly push up and arch your back gently

Hold for 5–10 seconds then relax

Repeat 8–10 times

 

5. Hamstring Stretch

Another important exercise to keep the hamstrings flexible. Ensure that you do this exercise on a stable surface and if necessary, hold onto something to help you balance.

In a standing position, raise one foot up on a solid surface such as a step or bench

Point your toes upward and keep your leg straight

Slowly lean forward, keeping your back straight

Hold for 20–30 seconds

Return your foot to the floor and repeat with the opposite leg

Repeat 2–3 times on each side

 

When to do Your Sciatica Exercises

For the best results, you should do these stretches several times a day. Although it can be time consuming, this is the best way to ensure that your sciatica exercises are effective and is definitely worth the effort.

You should also keep your body moving between doing these exercises and aim to do at least 30 minutes of walking or other gentle physical activity each day. Avoid sitting or lying for long periods as this can make sciatica symptoms worse.

For more information, talk to your healthcare provider.

 

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