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Stretches for Sciatica
Help Relieve Pain

Stretches for sciatica can often be very effective for relieving sciatica, and in many cases, these stretches can help determine the cause of your sciatica. Stretches for sciatica can be diagnostic, as well as therapeutic.

"a specific cause of sciatica"

There are many possible causes of sciatica, but each different stretch will only have an impact on a specific cause of sciatica.

Sciatica is not a diagnosis or a disease. Sciatica is a symptom. It is a symptom that occurs when the sciatic nerve is being irritated. Sciatica is commonly felt as pain in the buttock that may radiate into the thigh and lower leg and/or up into the back.

"a deep severe ache, similar to a toothache"

People describe the pain of sciatica as a deep severe ache, similar to a toothache.

There may also be numbness or tingling associated with sciatica.

More severe cases may develop symptoms of cauda equina syndrome which is an emergency and requires immediate treatment to prevent permanent impairment. The symptoms of cauda equina syndrome are lower extremity weakness and problems controlling your bowels or bladder.

If you're having sciatica and you begin developing weakness in your legs or difficulty controlling your bowels and bladder you must see your doctor immediately.

"different stretches will have a different affect"

There are others, but the most common causes of sciatica are lumbar spinal stenosis, a bulging or herniated disk, and piriformis syndrome.

When doing stretches for sciatica, different stretches will have a different affect on each of these conditions. If a cat stretch or sitting hamstring stretch relieves your sciatica, you may have spinal stenosis.

"If piriformis stretches help to calm your symptoms..."

If lumbar hyperextension exercises improve your sciatica, or make your symptoms better, you may have a bulging or a herniated disc.

If piriformis stretches help to calm your symptoms you may be having piriformis sciatica caused by tightness or spasm of the piriformis muscle. 

Stretches for Sciatica Depend on Your Diagnosis

If you have spinal stenosis try:

Cat Stretch 
   1) Begin by getting on the floor on your hands and knees.

   2) Now arch your back up towards the ceiling and roll your pelvis and hips up towards your shoulders.

   3) Hold this for a count of 5 and repeat five times. 

Fetal Position 
The effects of the cat stretch can also be obtained lying on your side. If you lie on your side and bring your knees up to your chest, curling up in a ball, this puts the lumbar spine into extreme flexion. 

Sitting Lumbar Curl 
   1) Begin by sitting on the floor with your legs out straight and your feet apart.

   2) Now bend forward curling your lumbar spine into flexion.

   3) Hold for a count of 5 and repeat five times.

The stretches are not likely to cure spinal stenosis, but they may make it feel better at least temporarily.

Spinal stenosis causes sciatica by squeezing the nerves in the lumbar spine.

These stretches for sciatica open up the space for the nerves in the lumbar spine and may provide some relief of your symptoms if your symptoms are caused by spinal stenosis.

If your pain is being caused by a bulging or herniated disc exercises or stretches for sciatica that bend or flex the lumbar spine forward may make your symptoms worse. You should always do the stretches carefully and monitor your symptoms closely.

If you have a bulging or herniated disc try:

Lumbar Hyperextension Exercises 
   1) Begin by lying prone on the floor or on an exercise mat.

   2) Now raise your shoulders so that they rest on your elbows on the floor.

   3) While keeping your pelvis flat on the floor begin straightening your arms and arching your lower back as much as is comfortable.

   4) Hold for account of 5 and repeat five times.

   5) This one is easy to overdo and cause increased back pain, so start gently and progress slowly.

These stretches for sciatica can cause a negative pressure within the disc, which may reduce a bulging or herniated disc, making more room for the nerves. If you perform these exercises three times per day it still may take several days before you notice a difference.

More severe bulging discs and larger herniations may not be affected by these stretches, and if you have spinal stenosis, hyperextension exercises may make your pain worse.


If you have piriformis syndrome or piriformis sciatica try these stretches:

Sitting Piriformis Stretch 

   1) Begin by sitting up straight in a firm straight back chair.

   2) Now place your right ankle on top of the opposite knee.

   3) Press down on your right knee until your right leg is more or less straight across in front of you.

   4) While keeping your back straight, lean forward, bending at your hips. You should feel a stretch in your right hip.

   5) Hold for a count of 5 and repeat with the opposite leg.

   6) Perform 5 sets.

Supine Piriformis Stretch 
   1) Begin by lying on your back on the floor or an exercise mat.

   2) Keeping your left leg straight, bend your right hip and knee, bringing your knee up to your chest.

   3) While holding your right knee with your right hand use your left hand to pull your ankle around so that it is over the top of your left hip. You should feel a stretch in your right hip.

   4) Hold for a count of 5 and repeat with the opposite leg.

   5) Perform 5 sets.

These piriformis stretches for sciatica will stretch the piriformis muscle and relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve. If the piriformis muscle is causing your sciatica this should relieve your symptoms at least temporarily.

If you get good relief, even temporarily, you have at least identified the problem. You can then work towards a more comprehensive treatment program that includes stretches and other therapies for piriformis sciatica.

"treat the symptoms and help to identify the cause"

Stretches for sciatica can sometimes be useful to treat the symptoms and help to identify the cause of your sciatica. Any exercise for sciatica should be started gently and progressed slowly while carefully monitoring your symptoms. If you have any increased pain or other symptoms the exercises should be stopped.

In general all of these exercises are safe when pregnant, but before beginning any sciatica home treatment program you should discuss it with your obstetrician. These exercises could be started prior to becoming pregnant to help prevent problems during pregnancy. They can also be combined with yoga, massage, and other holistic methods of pain relief.

"very little risk of injury or adverse complications"

The effectiveness of these stretches will vary depending on exactly what is causing your sciatica. When performed carefully and correctly there is very little risk of injury or adverse complications and they can provide additional information about your condition.


These may also help:

Cauda Equina Syndrome

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

What is Piriformis Sciatica?

American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons

Return from Stretches for Sciatica to Sciatica Symptoms and Causes

Return to Living with Back Pain

Discover our Very Popular Newsletter "Yes You Can"   

Check our "Back Issues" and see what you have been missing