If you have ever experienced sciatica pain, then you know that it is no joke! A sharp pain or numbness that travels across the buttock and down through the back of your leg to your foot, this pain can be so intense that it interferes with your ability to function in your day to day routine.
Sciatica occurs when the nerve roots that lead to the sciatic nerve are irritated. There are many ways that this can occur, such as a herniated disc in the spinning pressing against the nerves, a pinched nerve due to an injury or bone spurs that have formed as a result of arthritis. Regardless of the reason, the pain that results isn’t one that can be ignored in order to ‘push through’ and get on with your day.
The phrase ‘sciatica,’ however, has become widely accepted to describe leg pain in general. This vague use of the term has resulted in a large portion of the population reporting experiences. Some experts even estimate as much as 43% of the population will experience sciatica pain at some point in their lives. Often developing around the age of 40 to 50, the condition is rarely the result of one identifiable injury or event, instead slowly developing over time.
Signs and Symptoms of this condition include:
- A constant feeling of pain in one side of the buttock or down one leg (there are rare occasions where pain is felt in both, but it is less common)
- The pain may radiate from the leg down into the foot or toes
- Leg pain is described as searing, burning or tingling, a sudden sharp pain as opposed to a dull ache
- Difficulty standing up or walking due to a sharp pain in the leg
- The pain intensifies when sitting down
- Feelings of numbness, pins and needles, weakness or difficulty in moving your leg, foot and/or toes
Experts advise that in many cases sciatica can improve and go away over time, and as such treatment is often focused on providing relief from the pain so that this can occur. This relief may come in the form of a heating pad or heat wrap, steroid treatments, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants, or targeted stretching. In some more severe cases, surgery may even be required.
If you are experiencing sciatica pain, try these 11 stretches:
Supine Piriformis Stretch
Lay down on your back on a firm, comfortable surface such as a carpeted floor or on a yoga mat. Bend your knees upwards with your feet firmly planted on the ground. Slowly lift your painful leg up to cross if over the other leg. Place one hand on your knee and your other hand on your ankle firmly holding onto your painful leg. Slowly pull your knee towards the opposite shoulder, holding it for 30 seconds. For a more intense stretch, pull the good leg in towards the chest, stretching out the painful leg.
Side Lying Claim Exercise
Lay on your side on a firm, comfortable surface with your painful leg on the top. Bend your legs back to a 90-degree angle, creating an L shape with one foot resting on top of the other. Gently lift your knee upward towards the ceiling then lower it back to its original position. Repeat 15 times.
Outer Hip Piriformis Stretch
Lay on your back on a firm, comfortable surface, bending your painful leg so that your foot rests on the ground while your good leg is stretched straight out. Bring your foot on your painful leg into the back of the knee of your good knee before twisting the leg and your body in order to bring your knee forward, touching the ground. Placing your hand on your knee, raise your other hand into the air and slowly lower it to the ground on the opposite side of your body holding the stretch for 20 seconds. Switch and repeat.
Long Adductor (Groin) Stretch
Sitting on a firm, comfortable surface, stretch your legs straight out as far apart as is comfortable for you individually. Slowly tilt your body forward toward the ground placing your hands on the floor next to one another. Continue to move forward, bringing your elbows down to the ground. Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds before slowly sitting back up again.
Standing Hamstring Stretch
Standing, take the heel of your painful leg and place it forward on the floor at a 45-degree angle. Lean forward keeping your spine straight and your shoulders back, reaching for your foot. Hold the stretch for approximately 20 seconds before slowly standing up. Switch legs and repeat.
Short Adductor (Inner Thigh) Stretch
Sitting on a firm, comfortable surface, bring the soles of your feet together on the ground in front of you. Take your opposite hands and gently hold onto your ankles. Push your knees downward trying to touch the ground. Once you have pushed them down as far as you can, hold the position for 30 seconds. Release the stretch and then work it out by fluttering the legs similar to that of a butterfly.
Sit on a chair with your feet placed firmly on the ground in front of you. Bring your painful leg up to rest above the knee of your good leg. Gently leaning forward bring your chest towards your leg keeping your spine straight. When you reach a point or resistance hold your position for a few breaths before trying to bend forward even further. When you are unable to go any further hold the stretch for 30 seconds before slowly sitting back up. Repeat with the good leg.
Standing Piriformis Stretch
Stand up, using a chair for balance if required, and place the painful leg across above the knee of your other leg. Slowly lower your hips toward the floor at a 46-degree angle, bending the knee of your good leg and leaning forward, extending your arms out parallel to the ground. Focus on keeping your spine straight throughout the stretch. When you reach this position hold it for 30-60 seconds, slowly returning to standing. Switch legs and repeat.
Hip Extension Exercise
Kneel on your hands and knees on a firm, comfortable surface. Ensure that your hands are aligned with your shoulders, squaring your shoulders to the ground. Putting your weight on your good leg, slowly lift your painful leg up towards the ceiling, holding it for a couple seconds then slowly lowering it back down. Repeat 15 times.
Supine Piriformis Side Stretch
Lying on your back on a firm, comfortable surface with your legs flat and your spine straight, slowly bring your painful leg upward, bending the leg and planting the foot flat on the ground on the opposite side of your good leg. Using the hand opposite to your painful leg, reach out and gently pull the knee across the midline of your body. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds before releasing. Repeat this stretch 3 times on each side of the body.
Buttocks Stretch for the Piriformis Muscle
Begin kneeling on your hands and knees on a firm, comfortable surface. Bring your painful leg up underneath the core of your body, twisting it towards the opposite side close to your hip. Point your knee up towards your shoulder. Lower your head forward, gently bringing your forehead down towards the ground, resting on your forearms. Hold this position for 30 seconds before getting back up. Repeat it a total of 3 times on each side.