Sciatica pain is a very common complaint. About 40% of people in the U.S. experience sciatica during their lifetime. It can come on suddenly or gradually, depending on the cause. For instance, a disk herniation can cause sudden pain, while arthritis in the spine develops slowly over time. Either way, the pain is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve root.
Symptoms of sciatica may include:
Moderate to severe pain in the lower back, buttock and down your leg.
Numbness or weakness in your lower back, buttock, leg or feet.
Pain that worsens with movement; loss of movement.
Tingling or “pins and needles” feeling in your legs, toes or feet.
Loss of bowel and bladder control.
The first step is to get a proper diagnosis from your healthcare provider. This typically involves a physical exam, as well as imaging tests such as x-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans and/or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Depending on the diagnosis, your healthcare provider may suggest treatments that include applying ice and/or heat packs, medication to reduce pain and inflammation, and physical therapy. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary.
There are also gentle stretches that can help reduce sciatica and low back pain. However, every person with sciatica pain is different, so it’s a good idea to discuss any type of exercise or stretches with your physician or physical therapist before doing them.
Since tightness in your lower back, abdominal and/or hamstring muscles can worsen the pain along your sciatic nerve, which runs from your lower back to your feet, stretches that loosen and strengthen these muscle groups can help alleviate sciatica.
1. Scissor hamstring stretch
This stretch targets your hamstrings.
Stand with your right foot in front of your left, about 3 feet apart.
Face your hips and shoulders forward.
Place your hands on your hips. You can put a hand on a chair on the side for balance if needed.
Bend forward at the waist, folding your torso forward over your front leg. Keep your back straight and most of your weight over your front leg.
Hold for 5 to 10 seconds, then perform this stretch with the other leg.
Try to do complete 3 to 5 repetitions of this exercise on each leg every day.
See this video for a demonstration: https://www.spine-health.com/video/scissor-hamstring-stretch-low-back-pain-and-sciatica-relief-video
2. Back flexion stretch
Bending your spine forward is called flexion. Flexion exercises can help with spinal flexibility and mobility, as well as strengthening your abdominal muscles.
Lie on your back (If you can’t get down on the floor, try using a PhysioBoard on your bed. It provides a sturdy raised surface.)
Gently pull your knees to the chest with both hands until a comfortable stretch is felt in the mid and lower back.
Slowly bring your head forward toward your knees for a deeper stretch.
Hold for 5 to 10 seconds and return to the starting position.
Try to do complete 4 to 6 repetition of this exercise every day.
3. Prone on elbows
This simple move helps stretch the lower back.
Lie on your stomach and keep your hips flat on the floor. (If you can’t get down on the floor, try using a PhysioBoard on your bed. It provides a sturdy raised surface.)
Press your upper body up until you can place both elbows under each should.
Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times.
There are many other stretches that can help alleviate sciatica pain, but these three simple stretches can get you moving in the right direction. Be sure to talk to your physician or physical therapist about what you can do safely and which stretches are best for your particular diagnosis.
Having trouble getting down and up from the floor? No worries!
Many of the stretches for the lower back and sciatica are performed on the floor. However, getting down and up from the floor may be impossible if you’re suffering from severe back pain, or have physical limitations. The good news is you can still benefit from exercising and stretching with the PhysioBoard.
Simply place this lightweight, yet sturdy board on your bed to create an effective exercise surface. When you’re done, its easy to remove and store behind a door or in a closet. It also comes with a water- and bacteria-resistant cover that can be wiped down or machine washed.
PhysioBoard was designed by a physical therapist and an engineer – and people who have used it call it a “game changer!”
To learn more, visit www.physioboard.net