Can Sciatica Exercises Relieve Pain?
Sciatica is a spinal condition that causes pain down the leg due to compression of the sciatic nerve. This compression usually occurs at the spinal level from a number of different factors, and can cause debilitating pain. Aside from medications, people who are looking for a more natural solution will be interested to know if sciatica exercises relieve pain. The short answer is a definite 'yes', but you need to be sure you are doing the right exercises for your condition, as there are several causes of sciatica.
In general the exercises will be aimed at releasing the pressure off the sciatic nerve. However it is important to know exactly what is the specific cause of that nerve pressure. We suggest you start by reading our article on the different causes of sciatica first. This will help you identify the correct exercises for you to do if you are suffering from sciatic pain.
Below are the exercises that will help to relieve sciatica, relevant to the cause. Try to start exercising as soon as possible, within a few days of the sciatica flaring up. The longer you leave it, the worse the condition generally becomes.
Sciatica Exercises for Piriformis Syndrome.
If the piriformis muscle, which is located in your buttock, is to tight or spasming, it can compress the sciatic nerve causing sciatica like symptoms.
By stretching the piriformis you can help to relieve this nerve pressure and get some relief.
Lie on your back with your legs stretched out flat. Cross the foot on the affected side over the other knee, then pull the unaffected leg towards your chest. Hold for 10-30 seconds then relax back down. You will feel a stretch, but it should not be painful, if it is then just back off a bit.
Sciatica Exercises for a Herniated Disc.
Often relief from sciatica that is caused by a herniated disc can be achieved by extending or arching the spine.
First off, try this in a standing position with your hands on your hips, and just gently arch backwards over your hands.
If you have any pain aggravation then do not do this exercise. If it is okay, after doing this for 2-3 days you can progress to doing extension exercises on the floor.
Lie on your tummy, and gently lift your head and shoulders off the floor using your back muscles and propping your self up on your elbows for 10 seconds.
Begin this one very carefully and slowly as it can be quite painful at the start.
For some people, raising their painful leg is beneficial.
Lying flat on your back, slowly attempt to raise the affected leg 6 to 12 inches off the floor and hold there for 10 seconds.
This is also good to strengthen the abdominal muscles, which are important spinal stabilisers.
Sciatica Exercises for Degenerative Disc Disease.
The best exercises for DDD are stretching exercises to help to improve spinal flexibility.
Start in a kneeling position, then sit back onto you feet.
Stretch your arms out in front of you along the floor.
Feel the stretch in your low back and hold for 10 seconds.
Move back onto your hands and knees, then gently lift one leg behind you as far as you comfortably can.
Hold for 10 seconds then do the same on the other side.
All the previous exercises are also helpful for Degenerative Disc Disease, as is walking. (read all about how great walking is by clicking here.)
Sciatica Exercises for Spinal Stenosis.
Spinal stenosis is often a result of degenerative changes in the spine, so all the above exercises can be of benefit.
Try them all, you should find that some feel good and some feel bad. Simply, don't do the bad ones, and do the good ones! Everybody is different, so try them for yourself.
Sciatica Exercises for Spondylolisthesis.
The idea of these exercises for spondylolisthesis is to teach the spine to be more stable in flexion and extension movements (backwards and forwards). Abdominal strength is key!
Start lying flat on your back, slowly attempt to raise the affected leg 6 to 12 inches off the floor and hold there for 10 seconds.
Repeat with the other leg.
Lie flat on your back with your knees bent. Notice that your lower back is arched up off the floor slightly.
Suck your tummy in, and press your lower back onto the floor and hold for 10 seconds.
Sit-ups are great for really getting your abs strong.
Lying on the floor as above, lift your upper body (head and shoulders) off the floor by curling up.
Don't try to lift to high, just enough to get your shoulders slightly off the floor. Repeat 10 times.
You can do more sets of 10 as you get better!
Sciatica Exercises for Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction.
Inflammation of the Sacro-iliac joint can cause sciatica like symptoms. This is usually the result of abnormal joint movement and can be assisted by stretching.
Lie on your back with your knees bent. Pull the knee on the affected side up to your chest as far as you can, then hold for 10 seconds.
You can also pull the knee across your body towards the opposite shoulder to amplify the stretch.
Before beginning any exercise program, particularly exercises for sciatica, you should see a health professional to get a correct diagnosis for your pain to rule out any potentially serious problems. We would like to stress again the importance of a correct diagnosis, that way it will give you the best chance to really find out if sciatica exercises relieve pain.
The proper exercises differ based on the underlying condition that is causing the sciatic pain, so patients should not try to self-treat their sciatica before consulting a health professional or spinal specialist such as a chiropractor.
If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.
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