5 Simple Stretches for Sciatica

Sciatica can be a real pain in the back, among other things.

Also known as lumbar radiculopathy, sciatica (pronounced sci-at-ick-aa) is a term used to described a series of symptoms—most notably, pain—that occurs when the sciatic nerve is irritated. This large nerve runs from your lower back, past the buttocks and down each leg.

Sciatica is currently estimated to be the cause of low back pain in five to 10 percent of Americans.

What are some stretches to alleviate sciatica symptoms?

The beauty of creating a routine to manage your sciatic pain is that it also serves as a way to prevent sciatic pain and other symptoms from making a reappearance. In fact, though it may seem unlikely (or unpleasant), exercising actually helps to improve symptoms better than bed rest.

One of the forms of exercise to help relieve sciatica is performing stretches that externally rotate the hip. Here are five stretches that do just that:

  1. Reclining Pigeon Pose
    • While lying on your back, bring your right leg up to a right angle. Grip both hands behind the thigh and lock your fingers.
    • Lift your left leg and place your right ankle on top of the left knee.
    • Hold the position for a moment, then repeat with the other leg.
  2. Sitting Pigeon Pose (to be done once the reclining pigeon pose can be performed with ease)
    • Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out straight in front of you.
    • Bend your right leg, putting your right ankle on top of the left knee.
    • Lean forward and allow your upper body to reach toward your thigh.
    • Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
    • Repeat on the opposite side.
  3. Knee to Opposite Shoulder
    • Lie on your back with your legs extended, and your feet stretched upward.
    • Bend your right leg and fasten your hands around the knee.
    • Lightly pull your right leg across your body toward your left shoulder. Hold it there for 30 seconds.
    • Push your knee so your leg returns to its starting position.
    • Repeat for a total of three reps, and then switch legs.
  4. Sitting Spinal Stretch
    • Sit on the ground with your legs stretched straight out with your feet arched upward.
    • Bend your right knee and place your foot flat on the floor on the outside of your opposite knee.
    • Place your left elbow on the outside of your right knee to help you gradually turn your body toward the right.
    • Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three times, then switch sides.
  5. Standing Hamstring Stretch
    • Place your right foot on a raised surface at or below your hip level. Flex your foot so your toes and leg are straight.
    • Bend your body forward slightly toward your foot (without feeling pain).
    • Release the hip of your raised leg downward as opposed to lifting it up. If you need help easing your hip down, loop a yoga strap or long exercise band over your right thigh and under your left foot.
    • Hold for at least 30 seconds, and then repeat on the other side.