You’ve probably dealt with this annoying, sometimes debilitating pain before. It plagues approximately 10 percent of the population, primarily affecting people who are overweight or have had a recent history of back surgery. Sciatica typically radiates from the lower back to one of the legs and is often associated with numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hip or leg on one side.
Table of Contents
- 3 Safe Exercises To Help You to Ease Sciatica Pain
- Sciatica Exercises to Avoid: Things to keep in Mind
- Bonus: 15 Exercises that strengthen your lower body
- What is sciatica?
- What causes sciatica?
- What are the symptoms of sciatica?
- How is sciatica diagnosed?
- How is sciatica treated?
- Why does exercise help sciatica?
- What are the best exercises for sciatica?
- How long should I rest before going back to exercising?
- How should I warm up before exercising?
- What about doing exercises for smaller muscle groups?
- How much and how often should I exercise?
- Is it safe to continue working out while suffering from sciatica?
3 Safe Exercises To Help You to Ease Sciatica Pain
This exercise helps reduce the inflammation that is caused by sciatica. Place one hand on a sturdy surface for balance. With your other hand, reach toward the ceiling, extending at your hip and feeling a stretch in your lower back. Maintain this position for 30 seconds. Repeat this exercise 8-10 times, alternating sides.
Cat and Cow
Begin on all fours. Arch your back, look up and raise your head and chest as if a string were pulling you up, then drop your head and chest down as if a string were pulling you down. Do this at least 10 times. You can do this exercise lying on your stomach or sit up.
Prone Press Up
In a prone position on your stomach, raise both arms and legs off the floor 3-4 inches. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 8-10 times.
While these exercises will not cure your sciatica completely, they can help ease the pain and discomfort so you can continue with your daily activities.
Easiest Exercise for Sciatica & Herniated Disc
Sciatica Exercises to Avoid: Things to keep in Mind
Back pain can be an agonizing experience. When you get that deep ache in the middle of your back, it’s easy to imagine that it will never go away. But with time and patience, most cases of sciatica will dissipate on their own. The only thing you need to do is avoid further injury, which can happen if you do too much too soon.
Prevention is always better than cure and if you can avoid injury in the first place, you will be able to return to your normal activities much faster. Here are a few preventative measures that can help:
While it’s important to exercise without pain, it is equally important not to overdo it. If you’re exercising with pain or if you’re out of shape, it is likely that your body will not respond favorably allowing for further injury.
Too much too soon will only make your symptoms worse. Stretch slowly and gently after warming up. Also, make sure to rest enough, especially in the beginning. While you may think that you’re doing yourself a favor by exercising through pain or while tired, you are doing the exact opposite.
It’s important to wear good shoes for back pain when exercising. Not only do you need a pair of shoes that fit comfortably, but also a pair that can protect you from injury. If you have recently suffered a traumatic injury, it is highly recommended to get your feet checked out because, while you don’t want to risk being even more injured, it’s important not to get the same thing over and over again.
It’s important not to skip any exercise sessions even if you’re hurting or have been injured because the pain may come back in an even worse way. It’s a good idea to mix up your activities and keep your body from getting too used to the same movements.
Injury is not something that should be taken lightly. Make sure you get all of your questions answered by a doctor before starting an exercise program.
Bonus: 15 Exercises that strengthen your lower body
Here’s a list of 15 exercises that you can do to relieve the pain – and strengthen your lower body – in a safe and effective manner. This isn’t meant to be a complete guide, but rather a concise, easy-to-follow list of exercises that will help curb your sciatica symptoms.
This exercise can help you strengthen your gluteal muscles, spinal erectors, and abdominal muscles. Don’t swing your legs like you were at a bar. Instead, keep your back straight while bending at the knees and swinging forward.
Use a weight or stability ball to perform this exercise safely and effectively. It’s best to start with your knees bent and lean forward until you feel a slight stretch. Keep your hips stationary while performing the move.
Alternating Leg Raises
You can use a stability ball, weight plate, or dumbbell for this move. With straight legs, raise one leg about six feet in the air and hold it in a flexed position for a few seconds before lowering it back down. Repeat this motion 20 times on each side before switching to the opposite side.
Side-Lying Leg Kicks
Use a stability ball or weight plate for this exercise. Lie on the side you wish to target and slightly bend your knees so that your foot can come up behind you. Swivel your hips, bringing your leg toward the ceiling while tapping the ball or weight plate against the floor. Keep your leg in a straight position while performing this exercise for 20 reps on each side.
Lie on your stomach with your chin touching the ground. Slide your legs forward, moving them toward your head. Hold this position for a few seconds before slowly sliding back down to the starting position. Repeat this move 20 times if you are able to do so without experiencing any pain.
Seated Leg Raises
This is another exercise you can do with a stability ball, weight plate, or dumbbell. Sit on the ball or bench and flex your knees at about a 90-degree angle. Hold your leg in this position for a few seconds before slowly raising your heel off the bench. Repeat this 20 times.
Lying EZ-Up Reverse Fly
Lie lengthwise on the ground with your feet elevated off the floor by about two to three inches. Press your feet toward the ceiling while maintaining good posture, holding it for about 10 seconds before slowly lowering them down to the starting position. Repeat 20 times if you are able to do so without experiencing any pain in your lower back or legs.
Seated One-Legged Leg Raises
This exercise works the gluteal muscles in your hip, while also targeting your spinal erectors. Sit on a stability ball or weight plate while flexing your knees at about a 90-degree angle. Lift the lower leg off the ground while keeping your hips stationary, holding it for about 10 seconds before slowly lowering it back down. Repeat this move 20 times.
Straight-Leg Hip Raises
Perform this exercise with your feet slightly elevated off the ground and hands on your hips. Move your hips back and forth while keeping your legs still. Raise and lower them for about 10 seconds on each side.
Use a stability ball or weight plate for this exercise. Lie on the floor and bend your knees toward the ceiling, placing the ball or plate between your feet. Lift your hips off the ground while keeping your arms in a straight position. If you are using a weight plate, resist this force by pulling on it slightly with your arms. Hold this position for about 15 seconds.
This exercise works your gluteal muscles in addition to building strength in your lower back. Start out by lying on your back with both legs extended toward the ceiling and bent at 90-degrees at the knees. Keep your feet and hands on the ground and slowly slide your right leg up toward the ceiling while simultaneously bringing your left leg down toward the ground. Now switch which leg you’re moving so that you’re alternating, with each move taking about 10 seconds.
Use a stability ball or weight plate for this exercise. Lie down with your elbows resting on the floor near your sides and hands holding on to the ball or plate. Extend both legs straight out in front of you while keeping your hips, shoulders, and head facing forward. Hold this position for about 15 seconds before switching which side you’re using and repeating the exercise 20 times.
One-Leg Knee Tucks
Stand with your feet slightly apart and your knees bent. Shift all of your weight to one leg and raise it to about a 45-degree angle, holding it for a few seconds before lowering it back down. Repeat this move 20 times on each side.
What is sciatica?
Sciatica is an irritation of the sciatic nerve, which is located in the lower spine. The sciatic nerve exits through the spinal column and travels down both legs, providing sensation and muscle control to the buttocks, thighs, calves, and heels. Sciatica occurs when there is pressure on or pinching of the sciatic nerve in the lower back. This causes numbness, pain, or tingling down one leg. Pressure on the sciatic nerve can be caused by an injury to the back—such as a fall, blow or sports injury—herniated disc, or a spinal cord tumor.
What causes sciatica?
Anything that causes increased pressure on the sciatic nerve can cause this condition. The common causes are—herniated discs, pinched nerves, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, or piriformis syndrome.
What are the symptoms of sciatica?
The symptoms of sciatica include—pain in the back, buttocks, hips or down the leg; pain with sitting for long periods of time; difficulty straightening up from a sitting position; numbness or tingling in the back of the thigh or feet; muscle weakness or muscle spasms.
How is sciatica diagnosed?
A thorough examination is performed by a physician to determine if you have sciatica. The physician will press on the damaged nerve. If there is pain, this is likely to indicate that you have sciatica. A MRI scan may be recommended to see the extent of the damage.
After diagnosing your condition, one or two treatments can be prescribed to help alleviate the symptoms. This might include—massage therapy, relaxation exercises, spinal manipulation or activator exercises.
How is sciatica treated?
There are many different types of treatments for sciatica. It’s important to discuss treatment options with your doctor so that you can decide on an appropriate drug regimen for relieving your symptoms. Here are some of the most common sciatica treatments include—
· Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs(NSAIDs) are commonly used to relieve pain in patients with back pain. The most common NSAIDs are aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. These medicines can reduce inflammation but they can also cause stomach ulcers, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Patients should avoid alcohol when taking NSAIDs.
· Opioids are also used to relieve pain in patients with back pain. The most common prescription opioid is hydrocodone. This drug works by binding to specific receptors in the brain that are responsible for pain sensations. Hydrocodone is usually taken by mouth. These medicines can cause constipation, nausea and drowsiness. They should be avoided if you have liver or kidney disease.
· Other drugs, such as muscle relaxants, anti-seizure medication, and antidepressants, can also be given to relieve pain in patients with sciatica. These treatments may take a few weeks for patients to feel more comfortable.
· Steroid injections are another option for patients with sciatica. These treatments are used as a last resort as they carry a risk of side effects such as hair loss and bleeding from the nose and mouth.
· Other treatments include—surgery and epidural injections. Surgery can alleviate pain and can be performed for relief of herniated discs, tumors, or spinal stenosis. However, this method often requires a longer recovery time and is not always very effective.
· Epidural injections are an option for patients with sciatica as they relieve pain without any medication. The patient spends a few hours in the hospital to receive the injection into the lower spine before leaving under general anesthesia. Sciatica is then relieved without any discomfort or pain for several months after receiving this treatment.
Why does exercise help sciatica?
Sciatica is the result of the stiff, swollen, and painful sciatic nerve. It occurs because of straining it or due to injury to it. Some factors can make the nerve sensitive and irritated, such as a herniated disc in your back or pressure on a nerve in your lower back.
Exercises are very effective in treating sciatica. They are easy to do, require no special knowledge, and cost nothing except for a few minutes of time each day.
What are the best exercises for sciatica?
There are two types of exercises: large muscle groups which affect the trunk, and smaller muscle groups, which affect the legs.
First, let’s consider large muscle groups. This group includes:
Walking. It is undoubtedly the most effective exercise for sciatica, especially if you have a herniated disc in your back. Walking will strengthen your legs and back muscles and help relieve pain in your lower back, sciatica, or leg cramps.
How long should I rest before going back to exercising?
If you exercise correctly, it will not cause any pain, so it is OK to do it every day.
If the exercise causes sharp pain or fatigue, then you should take a day off. This is because you exercised too much, too hard, or have not warmed up enough.
Exercising correctly means not pushing yourself too hard and not exercising after a big meal.
After all, your body can heal if you take care of it, so be nice to it and give it what it needs.
How should I warm up before exercising?
Stretching is critical because it increases oxygen supply to your muscles, makes them supple, and makes the muscle fibers flexible so they can contract more efficiently. It also increases their ability to get rid of waste products.
What about doing exercises for smaller muscle groups?
There are two main muscles that cause sciatica: piriformis and deep gluteal muscles. The former is located just below the sciatic nerve, the latter deeper in the muscles of your buttocks. Both of them are very important for correct posture and helping you to move correctly when walking or running.
How much and how often should I exercise?
The frequency of exercising depends on your health, general fitness and purpose of exercising, but it is usually one to three times per week for 30 minutes each time. You can start with just 15 minutes each time but make sure the exercises are done properly.
Just 25 minutes of moderate exercise a day can help you overcome sciatica. But start slowly and carefully, increasing the intensity only as your body becomes fitter. If you have not exercised before, begin with gentle stretches, then move on to low-impact aerobic exercises like walking or cycling. Build up to more vigorous exercise such as running or swimming over several weeks or months.
Is it safe to continue working out while suffering from sciatica?
If you have a job that involves standing for much of the day, then you are better off taking breaks to walk around and stretch.
These breaks can reduce the risk or severity of conditions such as sciatica, hernias, and circulation problems. Take 10-20 minutes every hour or two to stretch your legs, shoulders, and back by walking or jogging around the office.