Sciatica Pain Relief Through Exercises

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One of the main causes of sciatica pain is when the sciatic nerve is compressed due to physical injury or inflammation. It may affect both sides or sometimes it can affect only one side. The person may also feel joint and muscle pain including numbness.

As much as 80% of people in the developed countries are going to have lower back pain in their life and this makes one of the major reason that prevent some from turning up for work. Generally those affected with acute sciatic pain recover within 6 months. But few cases may develop into chronic sciatica.

The most common treatment of sciatic pain is with low-dose non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or paracetamol. However these medications cannot prevent sciatica from recurring. For permanent relief, many have also resorted to natural sciatica pain relief methods.

Note: Sciatica exercises picture guide (step-by-step) is provided at the bottom of this article for easy reference.

Sciatica symptoms

Numbness, pain, a burning discomfort or tingling radiating from the lower back as well as upper buttock down the back of the thigh to the back of the leg are the major symptoms of sciatica. The final result is buttock pain, leg pain and lumbar pain. The pain can also spread around the buttock and hip. Generally we associate sciatica with lumbago (lower back pain), however it can also occur without low back pain. Sciatica makes walking difficult and painful. These symptoms are provoked by bending down or walking and calmed by lying down. Changing the positions can give you partial or full relief.

For most cases of sciatica there is a recommended controlled and progressive program that works around the main cause of sciatic pain. The main purposes of sciatica exercises are:

Preventing the future recurrence of the pain

A chiropractor, physical therapist, physiatrist, certified athletic trainer, as well as other spine specialist who can treat sciatica will prescribe you different exercises and tell you how to deal with it.

Exercise can provide relief from Sciatica

While it may appear that bed rests are better, but exercise is actually better at reducing sciatica pain. Taking a day or two to rest after an episode of sciatica may feel good but after that it will make the pain more painful. Without any movement or exercise the spinal structures or back muscles lose their strength more. This in turn causes more pain. If the patient suffering from sciatica continue the exercises prescribed it takes care of the spinal discs and helps in exchanging fluids and nutrients thus preventing pressure on the sciatic nerve.

Characteristics of all sciatica exercise program includes:

  • Core muscle Strength. Most of the exercises concentrate on strengthening back and abdominal muscles so that it supports the back more. Exercises include stretching of muscles that are inflexible and tight. Regular engagement of gentle stretching and strengthening exercise can help patients recover fast from sciatica and prevent from future incidents of pain.

  • Specific Diagnosis.  Majority of the exercise programs are designed to deal with the main cause of the sciatic pain, for instance spinal stenosis or lumbar herniated disc. However doing wrong exercises can exacerbate the sciatic pain. So, it is more important to get the correct diagnosis before starting the sciatica exercises.
  • Hamstring Stretching.  In spite of the diagnosis, the majority forms of sciatica will profit from a standard regimen of hamstring stretching. Hamstring muscles are located in the back of the thigh. Excessively tight hamstrings add to the stress on the lower back and then worsen or even trigger some of the form that bring about sciatica.

  • Correct exercise. Addition to the above point, even if you are doing the right exercise it may not be effective until it is not done in the perfect form. This may later continue to increase the pain. So as a word of caution you should learn the exercise under the proper guidance of a good trained health practitioner, for instance a chiropractor, physical therapist or physiatrist.
  • Aerobic exercises. Besides the specific exercise, aerobic condition also takes care of general body fitness. For lower back, walking is a very good exercise as it is comparatively low effect but can give all the benefits of an aerobic workout. The best is to generally walk up to three miles at a fast face every day.

Sciatica should be taken cared just like one’s daily life. It is not only to add to the usual routine at the day’s end. Patients with sciatica should reduce stress on the lower back, including maintaining good posture, using proper ergonomics while lifting, supporting the lower back while supporting, and to avoid standing or sitting for long time.

Before patients begin any exercise plan, patients need to go to a health professional and get a right diagnosis for the pain and take care of any serious problems. There are different exercises based on the current condition of sciatic that is causing pain. So it is advised that patients shouldn’t try to treat their sciatica themselves and instead go to a health professional.

Sciatica Exercises

1) Stomach toning exercise

Lie on your front then keep your head on one side and your arms by your side. Tighten the stomach muscles that surround your tummy button. Do this 3 times repeatedly but ensure that you hold for 5 seconds. Repeat this while walking and standing during the day after building up to 10 seconds. Do not stop breathing while doing this exercise.

 2) Gluteals toning exercise

Lie on your front and bend one leg behind your back, and then lift your bent knee slightly away from the floor. Do this 5 times for each side but ensure that you hold for a maximum of 8 seconds.

3) Deep stomach muscle toning exercise

Kneel on your hands and legs. Curve your lower back slightly. Lift your back off the floor without arching it by pulling the lower part of your stomach upwards after relaxing it completely. Do this 10 times repeatedly but do not stop breathing and ensure that you hold for 10 seconds as you do so.

4) Back stabilizer exercise

Kneel on both your hands and legs. Straighten your back. Raise one arm in front of you for 10 seconds after tightening the stomach. Avoid rotating your body in order to keep your pelvis level. Instead of your arm, lift one leg behind you after doing this 10 times repeatedly for each side.

Although patients usually get maximum benefits from the recommended sciatica exercises by paying close attention to their posture and body mechanics, they should do them on a regular basis (typically twice a day) and in a correct manner in order for them to achieve effective results.  A gentle exercise program and stretching does not only help in the prevention of the occurrence of back problems in future but it is also beneficial for the overall health of the back and any current sciatica episode.

Sciatica exercises picture guide


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17 Comments on “Sciatica Pain Relief Through Exercises”

  • Jake P. wrote on 26 August, 2012, 14:39

    I am suffering from sciatica for so many months and since that time it has not been possible for me to feel my right leg. It is said that even massaging is not good for it. Kindly help me out and give a sincere advice.

  • Kendall wrote on 26 August, 2012, 17:36


    I have had sciatica on and off for four years and at one point the neurologist wanted to do surgery. But I get good relief from an epidural injection at the affected area. So find yourself a good orthopedic or anestesiologist. Good luck !!

  • Mandy wrote on 27 August, 2012, 10:21

    It is not a good idea to massage when there is inflammation initially. Massaging can be effective in order to get relief for longer period of time as it reduces inflammation, prevents scar formation and it also return flow of blood to this part for healing it,

    There are many causes of sciatica and for some causes massaging is not advisable like disk or spine issues. If you opt for massaging in these situations then your problem can actually aggravate.

    I myself am suffering from sciatica due to two reasons i.e. continuing soft tissue inflammation as well as misfiring of nerves, for which massage is considered effective.

    If you want the best solution then the best thing is to take advice from a professional like health practitioner or a physiotherapist.

  • Kelsey wrote on 27 August, 2012, 10:24

    My age is 23 and I am suffering from sciatica pain in the right leg since last year. I exercise regularly and I have visited and consulted different physiotherapists and orthopedic doctors but still there is no relief. I am looking for its solution as I am quite worried about it.

  • Mandy wrote on 27 August, 2012, 10:30

    This is quite sad that you have been facing problem with sciatica, and the worst part is that even the medical experts could not help you in this regard.

    I am not in medical field, but I would like to share my story with you – which is almost like yours.

    For last many years I am suffering from severe sciatic pain but the results of the tests don’t show any problem with nerves or bones or – it shows inflammation in the area of nerve. Sadly, I couldn’t take anti-inflammatory medicine. I noticed that strengthening exercises made my pain worst when the pain was already bad. So, I started doing those exercises in the days when the intensity of pain was low. With the passage of time, I started taking more care of myself by trying to avoid the triggers and now I have recovered. The sciatic pain occurs occasionally when I hurt my back by carrying or moving objects with improper posture.

    In my opinion, the most important thing that helped me find an effective solution of sciatica knowing the cause that was inflammation. I started working on ways that can reduce and prevent inflammation, as a result of which sciatic pain almost vanished.

  • Jenna wrote on 27 August, 2012, 14:35

    About a year ago I felt a bulge in my left butt that resulted in 5 bulging discs, L2-5 and S1. I decided to see orthopedic, chiro, MD also had MRI and xrays that showed bulging of 2 discs. In my case, nothing worked although I had 4 epidural injections and doctor prescribed pain medicines as well but the pain became worst even with heavy painkiller. I have tried many options but my problem is still there, I really need sincere advice about the type of Dr I should see. Thank you!

  • Mandy wrote on 29 August, 2012, 13:26

    I’m so sorry to hear that you are facing so much pain. Actually you have all the chronic sciatica causes such as RA (rheumatoid arthritis), piriformis syndrome, spinal stenosis in which the spinal canal becomes narrow and you have torn and bulging discs. For me it’s not surprising why pain medicines haven’t worked for you.

    Your doctor must have told you about the medicines and options of surgery, especially for stenosis and RA?

    As my sciatica is due to soft tissue and nerves so I have no idea about spinal issues and cannot give any personal opinion about what can help with Rheumatoid Arthritis. In order to fix stenosis laminectomy surgery works well that’s what I have heard but I personally don’t know any patient who has had this type of surgery.

    The pain clinic must have told you how you can deal with your soft tissue inflammation as well as piriformis muscle and soft tissue inflammation in order to feel better. If you want to cope with the intensity of pain then you need to meditate, also perform gentle stretching exercises in order to get more mobile and the compression level on the nerve will decrease. You need to see a physiotherapist and MD so that he can help you find best exercises or stretches. If you choose wrong stretches and exercises then the problem of stenosis can be severe.

    Lifestyle changes can also be helpful in some type of illnesses. For your health issue you also need to bring some changes in your home environment. Make sure that everything that you need in the kitchen must be at bench level (crockery, pots) in this way you can save from bending over. Select a bed raised to just below the level of hip – so that it is easy for you to fall into and out of it. The mattress should be hard. Try to sleep with a pillow between your knees. Do not wear shoes with shoelaces. Also follow other instructions that I have given in the above article so that you can make your condition better.

  • Mandy wrote on 27 October, 2012, 15:03

    Pelvic Tilt Exercise
    With pelvic tilt one can strengthen the thigh muscles as well as the lower back muscles. As a result of this sciatica workout, compression of the sciatic nerve can be prevented in these areas. There is not much to the pelvic tilt really as all you need to do is to lye on your back with knees bent and then push your pelvic upward.

    In order to enjoy the benefits of stretches for sciatica one must do it regularly, like twice a day. Make sure that you know how to do it properly otherwise it can be detrimental and may actually worsen the condition. It’s advisable to seek the assistance of a physical therapist if you are not sure what you are doing.

    Watch this excellent video on how to carry out the pelvic tilt exercise properly:

  • affi wrote on 14 January, 2013, 0:54

    I’ve been searching the Net to find out if the pain I am feeling is sciatica or something else. This pain starts from the left side of my back and radiates UPWARD to my neck abd left shoulder to my left arm and fingers! From all descriptions of sciatica it is not the same although I believe it is on a nerve. Any help out there to identify this pain will be greatly appreciated!

  • Mandy wrote on 15 January, 2013, 14:16

    From what you mentioned, it is most unlikely sciatica pain as sciatica pain is felt on the legs. The pain is usually experienced in one leg and not both. The sciatic nerve:

    Sciatic nerve

    The sciatic nerve is the longest in our body, and also forms the largest network. The nerve originates from the lower back, goes down through the buttocks and legs until the heel. Compression in the nerves results in pain which is commonly termed as sciatica pain. In addition to compression, there are a few other factors responsible for sciatica pain, such as congenital deformities and rheumatoid arthritis. The pain experienced is usually sharp pain.

    Please read this to understand further the types of sciatica pain.

    I advise you to seek the opinions of medical experts to understand further your symptoms.

  • Sharmila wrote on 4 March, 2013, 1:44

    Hi, I have been suffering from sciatic pain since four month – can it be because I slipped and fell down? My two legs was stretched completely on two opposite directions. Since then I am suffering. The pain was on the thigh – when I drive I walk with difficulty. After a long period on a chair, I can’t walk properly. One month ago went to a sport doctor and the doctor gave some medicine, norflex etc. I was ok after one week and I restarted my Zumba class. Now the pain has started on another place near the knee. Last Saturday I went to the doctor and the doctor gave another medicine and said no Zumba classes and I must lose weight as i am around 80 kgs. Today the pain is on another place near the heel. Please help me. Can I do zumba classes afterward?

  • Mandy wrote on 11 March, 2013, 12:28

    It’s advisable to follow your doctor’s advice and stop your Zumba classes for a while. While being overweight is one of the causes of sciatica pain, there are low impact exercises that you can try and they are no less effective than Zumba when it comes to helping you lose weight. Other than the exercises mentioned above, swimming is one of the exercises that is ideal for sciatica sufferers. Do check with your doctor before trying out new exercises.

  • Sam wrote on 19 March, 2013, 1:37

    Hello – I’m a commercial bus driver. Went to work for a company that provides rides for veterans to their medical appointments. The bus I’m driving doesn’t have cruise control, so my right leg is used 1000% of the time (I drive all over WA, ID & OR states) I noticed about 3 or 4 weeks ago that I had this shooting pain in hip/bum area on my right leg, it’s running down to my knee (I have OA thru out my body, but my knees & shoulders are the worse) the pain is so bad, I can hardly move my leg. I’m looking for exercises that I can do before I go to work & maybe on my lunch break to get some relief. I do have a appointment with my PPO on the 20th. Any suggestion are welcomed.

  • Mandy wrote on 4 April, 2013, 15:00

    Hi Sam,
    It’s best to have a doctor look at it before you try any exercises as they may aggravate the condition further. It may or may not be sciatica but if it is and you are looking for exercises to relieve the pain, check out these exercises.

  • Vickie wrote on 8 April, 2013, 3:05

    Are these exercises safe if you already have had Lumbarectomy with Fusions? Fused at L3, L4,L5, S1.

  • Greta wrote on 22 June, 2013, 6:32

    My husband has been suffering from sciatica for a while now but his isn’t as serious as most that I read about. Just minor pain shooting down his left leg and from a visit to the doctor, he was told it’s probably due to muscle imbalance. So, am wondering what is the best sciatica exercise for his case?

  • Mandy wrote on 22 June, 2013, 6:59

    Hi Greta,
    If it’s just minor sciatica pain due to muscle imbalance, you need exercises that can strengthen the opposing muscle groups. Muscle imbalance usually occurs when one muscle has grown to become much stronger than the opposing muscle due to constantly repeated activities or doing exercises that strengthen one particular muscle group only.

    One of the ways to treat sciatica pain caused by muscle imbalance is through muscle balance therapy. You can find more information here.

    For exercises that can help, check out this guide on how to fix muscle imbalance.

    Muscle imbalance

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