Chances are, at some point in your life you, a family member has experienced sciatica pain, or maybe you’re the one struggling with it. But what exactly is sciatica? And how can we take measures to manage any accompanying pain?
Sciatica describes a type of pain that occurs along the sciatic nerve located in the area between the lower back and knees, and continues to run down the back of the legs.
The good news is that there are some sciatica stretches that you can do to alleviate symptoms, so keep reading to see how you can prevent it developing into something more serious down the line.
What is sciatica?
Sciatica pain occurs when one of the sciatic nerves – which begins in the lower back runs all the way down to the thighs – is irritated due to injury or unexpected pressure, with injuries to this area tending to increase as we age.
The sciatic nerves are the longest in the human body, which is why the pain can cover such a wide area. Sciatic nerve damage can happen as for a variety of reasons, including:
Degenerative disc syndrome or herniated discs
Muscle inflammation or injury like a fracture
Cervical spinal stenosis – a condition where the spinal cord starts to narrow, usually only occurring in people over the age of 50
Piriformis syndrome – when piriformis muscle has a spasm and puts pressure on the neighboring sciatic nerve
The majority of sciatica sufferers tend to be aged between 30 and 50, and severity and intensity of symptoms vary. Thankfully, around 90 percent of all sciatica issues can be alleviated through the regular incorporation of sciatica stretches.
Sciatica pain express itself in numerous ways, ranging from a sharp pain to a dull ache. Other symptoms include a tingling sensation or numbness running along the sciatic nerve, an increase in pain when coughing or sneezing or discomfort in the lower back and hip.
Usually, sciatica pain presents itself in one leg only, and it can last from a few days to weeks at a time. To find out if you’re dealing with sciatica pain, your doctor will ask you to perform a straight-leg raise. If you’re unable to lift your leg straight up without pain, you may have a herniated disc in your back, which is one of the primary causes of sciatica issues.
Try these sciatica stretches
Seated pigeon pose
Sit on the floor with your legs stretched directly in front of you.
Bend your right leg and place your right ankle directly above your left knee.
If you feel comfortable, bend your left leg so your left ankle is stacked under your right knee.
Lean your body forward with your arms stretched out in front of you and hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
Swap legs and repeat with the other leg on top.
Seated forward fold
With your legs extended in front of you extend actively through your heels. Bend your knees slightly if it's too painful.
Exhale and bend forward from the hip joints, not at the waist, as you reach your arms forward as far towards your feet as possible, lengthening your spine.
Lengthen your torso aiming toward your thighs.
Hold onto your shins, ankles, or feet — depending on your flexibility.
With each exhale fold a bit further forward, holding the stretch for up to a minute.
Then slowly release the pose, by inhaling as you lift your torso back to starting position.
Lie on your belly with your legs stretched straight out behind you.
Place your hands just under your shoulders with fingers facing forward and elbows pressed tight to your body and the top of your feet pushed into the ground.
Inhale and raise your chest off the floor, while keeping your lower ribs pressed into the ground.
Keep your shoulders back and away from the ears, so you feel the stretch in your back.
Hold this position for a few breaths, then gently lower yourself back down.
Figure four stretch
Lie on your back.
Cross your left foot over your right thigh, and bend your right knee.
Weave your hands through the gap between your legs and grab the back of your thigh pulling it toward your chest.
When you feel a comfortable stretch, hold there.
Switch sides and repeat.
We recommend incorporating these sciatica stretches into your everyday life to help manage any pain or as a prophylactic exercise to prevent any future issues, especially as you get older.