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Best Physical Therapy Exercises for Sciatic Nerve Pain

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Sciatica is pain that starts at the lower back and radiates through your hips and buttocks to the legs. It feels like a burning electrical sensation or an intense cramp. In the U.S, it’s the fifth most common reason people go for doctor visits.

Exercises for sciatica nerve pain

Sciatic exercises are better than cold packs or hot packs that provide temporary relief. Regular activity and gentle exercise can help relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve and maintain your back’s strength. If the muscles around your spine or abdomen are weak or tight, they won’t provide ample support to your body. The compromised muscles also affect your spine’s alignment. Gentle stretches and exercises that target your back and core will improve your posture and alleviate severe back pain.

In addition to improving the core, stretching exercises help increase hip flexibility. Your type of sciatica could benefit from a stretching routine that targets the hamstrings and the hips. Exercising also relieves pain on an inflamed piriformis muscle, which connects to the base of your spine.

Equipment-free Sciatica exercises

Here we look at six sciatica exercises that prevent future flareups and strengthen your back muscles and the spine.

Reclining pigeon pose

The first stretch that can help with pain relief is the pigeon pose. It’s a popular yoga pose and works to open your hips. There are different versions of this exercise. If you’re starting physical therapy, we recommend you try it first.

  • Bring the right leg to a right angle as you lie on your back. Clasp your hands behind the thigh with your fingers locked.
  • Raise your left leg gently and place the right ankle atop the left knee.
  • Hold this position briefly.
  • Do the same stretch with your other leg.

This exercise will stretch the piriformis muscles, which tend to swell and press against your sciatic nerve. If you can do this exercise without hip pain, work with your therapist on sitting and forward versions.

Drawing-in maneuver

This exercise works the transverse abdominis muscles that wrap around your midline and support your spine and abdomen.

  • Lie down with the feet flat on the ground and hips wide apart
  • Relax both hands by your sides
  • Inhale deeply, then breathe out while pulling your belly button towards the spine. This engages your abdominal muscles without moving your hips.
  • Hold for five seconds.
  • Repeat this exercise five times

Standing hamstring stretch

If you’re looking for sciatica exercises to ease back pain or loosen a tight hamstring, try out the standing hamstring stretch. Here’s how to do it.

  • Raise your right foot and rest it gently on an elevated
  • surface like a chair at or below the hip level.
  • With your legs straight, flex the toes.
  • Bend your body forward toward your foot. The further you
  • bend, the deeper your stretch.
  • Release the hip of the raised leg downwards.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, then do it again on the other side.

Sitting spinal stretch

Do you know why your feeling back pain or sciatica? Your spine’s vertebrae are compressed, and it’s pinching the sciatic nerve. To decompress them, you need to perform the sitting spinal stretch. It will create space in your spine, relieving pressure in the sciatic nerves.

  • Sit down with your legs stretched out and feet flexed upward
  • Bend your right knee, then place your foot flat on the floor on the outside of the opposite knee
  • Place the left elbow on the outside of the right knee and then use it to turn your body to the right gently.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and do it three times, then switch sides.

Aerobic exercises

Performing low-impact sciatica exercises like cycling, running, swimming, and brisk walking can also promote your physical fitness and help you maintain moderate body weight. Always warm up for 5 to 10 minutes before starting an exercise. If you don’t like working out on your own, consider signing up for aerobic class workouts.

Knee to the opposite shoulder

It’s another simple but effective stretch that can help relieve your lower back of sciatica. This stretch loosens the gluteal and piriformis muscles, which tend to swell and press against the sciatic nerve.

  • As you lie on your back, extend your legs and flex the feet upward
  • Bend the right knee, then clasp your hands around your knee
  • Pull the right leg gently across your body and toward the
  • left shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Push your knee so your leg goes to its original position
  • Do it three more times, then switch legs

When stretching, pull your knees only as far they can comfortably go. The stretches should be relieving and not trigger muscle pain.

Will sciatica pain go away?

Acute pain usually lasts between one and two weeks and often goes away with our without physical therapy.  Some people experience numbness for a while after the pain subsides. With time, acute sciatica can morph into chronic sciatica, a life-long condition that doesn’t respond well to conventional treatments.

Does exercise provide lasting pain relief?

Exercising your lower back is a good way of dealing with back pain. Not only does it relieve symptoms, but it also strengthens the muscles that support your spine. With time, you’ll gain more spinal strength and reduce pain as well as dysfunction.


Consult your doctor or therapist before you try out these lower back exercises. This way you will be sure they are suitable for your situation. If routine exercises exacerbate your back pain, stop and seek medical attention. Your doctor will have to perform a diagnosis to rule out other problems. Only work out within your physical limits.

As you undergo treatment or therapy for sciatica, you will want to avoid intense exercises such as running and plyometrics. Doing a lot of exercises fast can worsen your pain and slow the healing process.

If you are suffering from sciatica, call (888) 590-4030 today and get help finding and scheduling an appointment with an experienced sciatica pain doctor or a physical therapist near you.

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