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Sciatica exercises for pain

Sciatica Exercises: What's Best and What to Avoid

Jan 13, 2022

Sciatica is the medical condition where the person in question suffers from pain caused by the sciatic nerve. The pain is caused by anything that irritates the nerve but the original cause comes from a compressed nerve somewhere in the lower spine region. The reason why this happens is either because of a herniated disc or an overgrowth of a herniated disc. In some scenarios, the nerve can also be pressed by a tumor or damaged by an illness.


Do Sciatica Exercises Help Relieve Pain? 

According to various surveys, there are a couple of ways to relieve sciatica pain. Stretching, as well as practicing some low-impact activities on a regular basis, are two of them. Yoga is generally effective but you must learn the safest positions to start with.

Of course, there are also some exercises that you should avoid like the plague. With that in mind and without further ado, here’s a brief list of dos and don’ts when it comes to physical activity and sciatica.


Sciatica Exercises to Avoid 

There are some exercises that can further injure sciatica, which is why you need to avoid them as much as possible. Simply put, these are the exercises that involve:

  • Lifting both legs off the ground
  • High impact training
  • Squatting
  • Twisting or rotating the torso
  • Bending forward with straight legs

This means that the worst sciatica exercises are definitely:

  • Double leg lift
  • Leg circles
  • Bent-over row
  • Forward bends

In other words, anything that puts extra pressure on the lower back has the potential to worsen the sciatica. While it is hard to stretch properly without some of the above-listed exercises, if done improperly, this can lead to sciatic nerve pain.


Rules for Proper Sciatica Stretches

There are a couple of things that people suffering from sciatica pain should memorize. For instance:

  • Before stretching, you should always warm up to let the blood flow through your lower back muscles.
  • Avoid stretches that rotate the torso or require you to bend.
  • Stop when you feel resistance, do not force a stretch.
  • Pain is an indicator that you need to stop.


By just following these four simple rules, you’ll already be on the right path to keep yourself safe while exercising. Specific stretching exercises you want to try out first are:

  • Single knee to the chest
  • Piriformis stretches
  • Supine hamstring stretches
  • Double knee to the chest stretches


When done right, these stretches can be quite effective and prepare you to do the intended activity as pain-free as possible.


The Best Sciatica Exercises

The safest way to work out with sciatica is to look for low-impact (usually cardio) exercises. The most common options are:

  • Riding a stationary bike
  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Running, especially on hard terrain can cause excruciating pain to someone in your position.

Keep in mind that it’s not just about the nature of the exercise but the intensity. Then again, some exercises will help you boost the durability and flexibility of that area, thus assisting you with your issues. We’re talking about exercises like:

  • Bridge
  • Modified plank
  • Pelvic tilt

These are so safe and simple which is why some refer to them as sciatica exercises in bed. The majority (if not all) of these exercises can be, indeed, practiced in bed (ideally before you get up in the morning).


Seek Medical Help

Previously, we’ve talked about relieving pain, taking some pressure off it, as well as figuring out safe activities and stretches. All of these methods have the purpose of making this condition bearable. However, if you want to solve the issue, what you may need is proper medical treatment.

No, you may not get better on your own. In fact, chances are that the current pain level that you’re experiencing is a transition into something much worse. Sure, sciatica exercises can help a great deal but they are typically not good enough on their own. As the pain gets worse, they will get less and less effective.

When it comes to something as important as your spine, a proper examination, an MRI scan, etc, are the proper steps toward creating the right plan for healing. There are a lot of non-invasive treatment methods for sciatica including medication and preventative care.

Of course, it goes without saying that if you can’t stand or have lost control over some bodily functions due to sciatica issues, this is a medical emergency. In this scenario, talk to a doctor because surgery may be needed.


Additional Tips

There are some other things you need to know, other than just being aware of the list of sciatica exercises to relieve pain. For instance, your post-training activities are just as important. For instance, applying an ice pack to the area right after the activity can help quite a bit. After the activity, these muscles will already be heated up. Applying the ice pack to the painful area for 15 minutes should help.

Changing your posture on occasion may also be quite helpful. Being in the same posture for too long can spike your sciatica pain. So, changing the posture every 20 minutes or so can make a massive difference. It will help take some pressure off your spine and allow it to recuperate a bit.

When things get tough, there’s nothing wrong with using some over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs for your pain. Keep in mind that it’s a far worse shock for your body to be forced to endure the pain of such intensity on a regular basis.


Key Takeaways

In the end, while sciatica exercises can make a difference, they should be combined with other methods of pain relief for maximum effect. Nonetheless, what you do before and after the activity makes as much of a difference. Learn proper stretches, cool the area after you’re done, and, most importantly, learn how to avoid making things worse.

Also, bear in mind that this is a situation that you shouldn’t tolerate. Instead, find a spine doctor at the Orthopedic Institute of NJ and have them take a look at your problem.

This article was reviewed and approved by an orthopedic surgeon as we place a high premium on accuracy for our patients and potential patients.