Sciatic pain can stop you in your tracks. If you’re experiencing a flare due a recent or past back injury – or possibly from spinal stenosis or a herniated disk – you know that it can feel like a lightning bolt is running from your lower back all the way down your leg. When it strikes, there’s no ignoring it; you’ve got to stop what you’re doing, rest, and recover. But what then?
Get Moving and Recover Quicker
The truth is that you won’t be doing yourself any favors by staying inactive for too long. To the contrary, sciatic pain may worsen with too much bedrest or time spent on the couch.
That’s because, first, the core muscles and structures that provide crucial support to your spine can quickly begin to weaken and lose their strength when you’re inactive. This makes you more susceptible to a strain or other injury – thus ensuring it’s even harder to get back on your feet.
Additionally, your spinal disks require regular movement to stimulate the exchange of fluids and nutrients that helps them stay healthy and maintain their spongy, shock-absorbing quality.
One Good Stretch Deserves Another
Check with your doctor before trying any new exercise or stretch for your back pain, but in general, the best moves to help sciatica involve slow, external rotations of your hip to help take some of the pressure off the sciatic nerve. Here are two easy examples:
Piriformis Stretch (Hip Crossover)
Start by lying on your back with both knees bent and shoulder-width apart.
Cross your right ankle over your left knee.
With your hands, gently pull your right knee toward your left shoulder. You should feel a stretch in your buttocks and hips.
Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat three times. Do the same on the other side, with your left ankle pulled toward your right knee.
See how this stretch is performed in our Back to Basics videos.
Supine Hamstring Stretch with Cord (or Towel)
Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you.
Bend your right leg until your right foot is close enough for you to place a towel or stretch cord beneath the middle of the foot while gripping the towel at both ends with your hands.
Now lower your torso backward so you are laying on the mat while lifting your right leg straight up – and keeping hold of the towel at both ends.
Use the towel to gently pull your leg back while keeping your knee straight; hold for 20 seconds.
Repeat the same process with your left leg.
If you experience pain while practicing any of the above stretches, stop and consult your doctor or physical therapist. And if you continue to suffer from the burning, stabbing sensations of sciatic pain, it may be time to see a specialist. Chetan Patel, MD, and his team at the Spine Health Institute apply evidence-based and minimally invasive therapies for chronic back and neck pain that can help you obtain the relief you’re seeking. Contact them today at 866-986-7497.
References: 7 Poses to Soothe Sciatica. Yoga International. 6/4/2013. https://yogainternational.com/article/view/7-poses-to-soothe-sciatica; Sciatica Stretching Exercises. 5/5/2015. LiveStrong.com: http://www.livestrong.com/article/114712-sciatica-stretching-exercises/ ; Lying Hamstring Stretch (towel). N.D. ExRx.net: http://www.exrx.net/Stretches/Hamstrings/LyingTowel.html