There’s not much worse than lower back pain, especially when that electrical pain shoots down the back of your leg. If this sounds familiar, then you know the discomfort of sciatica.
Sciatica is radiating pain along the sciatic nerve, which runs from the glute down the back of the thigh. Up to 40% of people deal with this pain at one point or another. Causes include tight muscles, pregnancy and herniated discs.
Stretching can decrease the discomfort and strengthen your muscles. Also, stretching can decrease flare-ups and improve your strength and balance.
Here are a few stretches to get you started:
Knees to Chest: This stretch creates space between your vertebrae so they’re less likely to pinch the sciatic nerve. Lie on your back and slowly hug your knees to your chest, rounding your back. Hold 30 seconds. If this doesn’t hurt, do three reps.
Posterior Pelvic Tilt: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat. Tighten your abdominal muscles and tilt your tailbone upward, lifting your low back and pushing your butt down. Hold this 5 seconds, feeling a gentle stretch of your low back. Inhale and let your spine and pelvis return.
Figure Four Stretch: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat. Cross your right ankle over the left knee and clasp hands behind left leg. Gently pull the leg toward your body. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.
Cat/Cow: Start on all fours in a table-top position with a neutral neck, wrists under shoulders, knees under hips. Now inhale and move into a “cow” pose by dropping belly toward the mat, arching the back and lifting the chin.
Then exhale into “cat” pose by pulling bellybutton into the spine and rounding your back (like an angry feline). Keep the neck relaxed.
If done correctly, sciatica stretches can help take pressure off your sciatic nerve. For optimal results, stretch daily before getting out of bed or just before going to sleep. Consult your doctor and if pain increases, stop.