Sciatic nerve – Meaning
Pain which can be so excruciating and debilitating that one cannot even want to get off the couch is known as sciatic nerve pain. A ruptured disk, a narrowing of the spine canal (called spinal stenosis), and injury may be common causes of sciatica.
Certified physical therapist has said that sciatica pain can occur for a number of reasons. Mostly, the most problematic body parts are the lower back and hips.
Doing any stretch that can externally rotate the hip to provide some relief is the best way to alleviate most sciatica pain
Below are six exercises that do just that:
- reclining pigeon pose
- sitting pigeon pose
- forward pigeon pose
- knee to opposite shoulder
- sitting spinal stretch
- standing hamstring stretch
- Reclining pigeon pose
A common yoga pose is the pigeon pose which works to open the hips. Multiple versions are available of this stretch. The reclining pigeon pose is the first starting version of this. If treatment is just started, the reclining pose should be tried first.
- While on the back, bring the right leg up to a right angle. Clasp both hands behind the thigh, locking the fingers.
- Left leg should be lifted up and place the right ankle on top of the left knee.
- Hold the position for a moment. This helps in stretching the tiny piriformis muscle, which sometimes becomes inflamed and presses against the sciatic nerve, causing pain.
- Same exercise should be done with the other leg.
Once the reclining version is done without pain, physical therapist should be worked with on the sitting and forward versions of pigeon pose.
- Sitting pigeon pose
- Sit on the floor with the legs stretched out straight in front.
- Bend the right leg, putting the right ankle on top of the left knee.
- Lean forward and allowing the upper body to reach toward the thigh.
- Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. This stretches the glutes and lower back.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Forward pigeon pose
- Kneel on the floor on all fours.
- Pick up the right leg and move it forward on the ground in front of the body. The lower leg should be on the ground, horizontal to the body. The right foot should be in front of the left knee while the right knee stays to the right.
- Left leg should be stretched out all the way behind you on the floor, with the top of the foot on the ground and toes pointing back.
- Body weight to be shifted gradually from the arms to legs so that the legs are supporting the weight. Sit up straight with the hands on either side of the legs.
- A deep breath to be taken. While exhaling, lean the upper body forward over the front leg. Support the weight with the arms as much as possible.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Knee to opposite shoulder
Relieving sciatica pain is done with this simple stretch by loosening the gluteal and piriformis muscles, which can become inflamed and press against the sciatic nerve.
- Lie on the back with the legs extended and the feet flexed upward.
- Bend the right leg and clasp the hands around the knee.
- Gently pull the right leg across the body toward the left shoulder. Hold it there for 30 seconds. Keep in mind to pull the knee only as far as it will comfortably go. A relieving stretch in the muscle, not pain should be felt.
- Push the knee so the leg returns to its starting position.
- Repeat for a total of 3 reps, then switch legs.
- Sitting spinal stretch
When vertebrae in the spine compress, sciatica pain is triggered. This stretch helps in creating space in the spine to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve.
- Sit on the ground with the legs extended straight out with the feet flexed upward.
- Bend the right knee and place the foot flat on the floor on the outside of the opposite knee.
- Place the left elbow on the outside of the right knee to help in gently turning the body toward the right.
- Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three times, then switch sides.
- Standing hamstring stretch
Pain and tightness can be eased with this stretch in the hamstring caused by sciatica.
- Right foot should be placed on an elevated surface at or below the hip level which could be a chair, ottoman, or step on a staircase. Foot to be flexed so the toes and leg are straight. If the knee tends to hyperextend, keep a slight bend in it.
- Bend the body forward slightly toward the foot. The further it goes, the deeper the stretch. Don’t push so far that pain is felt.
- Release the hip of the raised leg downward as opposed to lifting it up. If help is needed for easing the hip down, loop a yoga strap or long exercise band over the right thigh and under the left foot.
- Hold for at least 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
Exercise with care
Assumption should not be made that you’ll be as flexible as the exercises ideally call for. Most people who have shown the exercises have flexibility which is great and have been doing it for years. If having any type of pain, stop.
People having sciatic nerve pain doesn’t have one-size-fits-all exercise
The positions should be adjusted slightly, such as pulling the knees in more or less, and noticing how they feel. If it feels better, then that is the treatment to be pursued
Even mild sciatic nerve pain if experienced by someone for more than a month, a doctor or physical therapist should be consulted. Relief may be found with an in-home exercise program tailored specifically to their pain.