Sciatica refers to the pain that one feels running from the lower back down the legs. The pain may often lead to weakness and numbness in the leg. Sciatica most commonly affects only one leg at a time. This pain is caused when the sciatic nerve is either pinched, compressed or injured. The sciatic nerve is the longest and the widest nerve that branches at the lower back and runs down the buttocks carrying nerve impulses throughout the legs. Sciatica is not a disease, but a condition. There are a number of treatment options for sciatica. However, one of the most effective treatment option is to perform exercises for sciatica leg and back pain.
The exercises to release sciatic nerve pain aim at stretching and strengthening the muscles of the legs and the lower back. The exercises are also specific with the cause of sciatica. Hence, a physical therapist is the one who would be able to suggest the best exercises for sciatica pain. However, here are a few easy exercises for sciatica nerve problem that you can try at home.
Piriformis is a small muscle in the hip region that helps us to rotate the hip joint. The sciatic nerve either passes through or under this muscle. Stiffening of this muscle may lead to sciatica leg pain.
Exercise # 1: Sit on the floor with the unaffected leg stretched out in front of you. Hold the ankle of the affected leg and pull it towards the chest as much as possible. Hold yourself in this position for 5 seconds. Repeat this exercise 3 to 4 times.
Exercise # 2: Lie on your back with legs stretched out flat. Pull the affected leg up towards the chest. With the hand of the affected side, hold the knee in position, while with the other hand may grasp the ankle. Try to pull the knee towards the chest. Do this until the stretch is felt. Do not force to extend the knee beyond the stretch. Hold yourself in the position for 30 seconds, then return to resting state. Repeat 3 stretches at a time.
Exercise # 3: Lie on your back with legs stretched out flat. Bend both knees. Place the ankle of the affected leg on the opposite knee. Push the knee down till pressure is felt. Hold yourself in the position for 5 seconds and repeat 5 times.
Exercise # 4: Sit straight with your legs stretched out flat. Let the unaffected leg be straight out in front. Hold the ankle of your affected leg and draw it towards your chest. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat this exercise 4-5 times.
Hamstring muscles are a group of muscles that span the back of the thigh from the lower pelvis to the back of the shin bone. These muscles help us to work our hip and the knee joints. If these muscles become tight they may pinch the sciatic nerve leading to acute pain.
Exercise # 1: Sit on the floor with both legs stretched out straight. Stretch your arms out. Lean forward bending at the waist. Keep your knees straight. Hold for 10 seconds. Come back to the resting position. Repeat this exercise 5 times.
Exercise # 2: Lie on the floor on your back. Support the thighs from behind the knee with your hands or using a towel. Straighten the knee and try to raise the leg up, till a stretch is felt at the back of the thigh. Your aim should be to extend the leg up to a 90 degree angle. Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds. Repeat this stretching exercise 5 times.
Exercise # 3: Sit on the floor. Your back should be upright and one leg should be stretched out straight. Bend the other leg at the knee and place the sole of that foot against the inner thigh of the stretched leg. Extend your arms and bend over the stretched leg as much as possible. Try to grasp the toe or ankle of the stretched leg and be in this position for 10 seconds. Repeat the exercise with the other leg.
Exercise # 4: Stand straight. Place the right foot in front of your left foot. Slowly bending at the waist, try to place your forehead on your right knee. Do not bend the knees. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Relax and change the position of the feet. Place the left foot in front of your right foot and repeat the exercise.
Exercises for Spinal Stenosis
Sciatic pain due to spinal stenosis is felt radiating down the leg while walking. The following exercises will relieve the pain.
Exercise # 1: Get down on your knees and sit on your heels. Sit erect with the back straight. Raise your hands up and bend down bringing your head down forward. Bend till the outstretched hands touch the floor. Try to touch the ground with your nose. However, don't push yourself too much. Stay in this position for 30 seconds. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat this exercise 4 to 6 times.
Exercise # 2: Lie on the floor on your back. Push the floor with the lower back by tightening the lower stomach muscles and pulling the navel in and up. Hold yourself in this position for 10 seconds. Doing 8 to 10 repetitions of this press is a good strengthening exercise for spinal stenosis.
Stretching your total back is the simplest and the best way to reduce the chances of suffering from the sciatica pain. Strengthening of the lower back muscles helps lower the symptoms of sciatica leg and back pain. While it is true that these stretches relieve the pain when one is suffering from sciatic nerve problem, it is best to do these exercises after consulting a good physical therapist.