10 Best Exercises for Sciatica and Back Pain

Sciatica is among the most debilitating back pain one can experience, to the point where it’s difficult to even get out of bed, let alone try to get back to your daily life. Sciatica pain can stem from a variety of different issues, including a ruptured disk, a narrowing of the spine canal (called spinal stenosis), and other injuries. Modern research indicates that one of the best things you can do is exercise the affected areas to strengthen back-supporting muscles as well as promote healing.

Planning Your Workout

When getting ready to set up your workout, be sure that you don’t go too far. A little pain is expected, especially if you don’t work out a lot, but if you overexert yourself, you will impede rather than support your healing. In the case of sciatica, the lower back and the hips are some of the most prominent areas of support. Here are some exercises that are a good match for this area, as well as other parts of the body that support the back.

Reclining Pigeon Pose.
Reclining Pigeon Pose.

1.Reclining pigeon pose. While on your back, bring your right leg up to a right angle. Clasp both hands behind your thigh and lock your fingers together. Lift your left leg and place your right ankle on top of the opposite knee. Hold the position for a moment. Follow this up by doing the same exercise, this time switching legs.

2.Knee to opposite shoulder. Lie on your back with your legs extended and your feet flexed upward. Bend your right leg and clasp your hands around the knee. Gently pull your right leg across your body toward your left shoulder. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Be sure to pull your knee only as far as it will comfortably go. You should feel a relieving stretch in your muscle, not pain. Push your knee so your leg returns to its starting position. Repeat for a total of 3 reps, before switching legs.

3.Sitting spinal stretch. Sit on the ground with your legs extended straight out with your feet flexed upward. Bend your right knee and place your foot flat on the floor on the outward side of your opposite knee.Place your left elbow on the outward side of your right knee to help you gently turn your body toward the right. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three times before switching sides.

Standing Hamstring Stretch
Standing Hamstring Stretch

4.Standing H When standing, simply bend forward at the waist with arms hanging down and with legs relatively straight. Try to touch the toes if possible, but stop when a stretch is felt in the hamstring. Variants of this stretch also exist while sitting or against a wall, for a less intensive workout.

5.Cat stretch. Position yourself on your hands and knees. Slowly arch your back, as if you are pulling your abdomen up toward the ceiling. Then slowly let your back and abdomen sag toward the floor. Return to the starting position. This stretch is best done three to five times a day.

6.Shoulder blade squeeze. Sit on an armless chair or a stool. While maintaining good posture, pull your shoulder blades together. Hold for five seconds and then relax. Try to repeat this three to five times twice a day.

  1. Lying knee twist. Lie on your back with your legs extended straight out. Bend the right knee up and cross it over the left side of your body. Hold in a position that allows you to feel a gentle stretch through the back and buttocks muscles for 20 seconds. After tightening your core muscles, rotate back to center.
  2. Cobra stretch. Start by lying on your stomach with your legs extended and with palms planted on either side of your head and your forearms and elbows flat on the ground. Slowly, push your body upwards, so your weight is resting on your forearms. Be sure to keep your hips on the ground. Once you reach a comfortable position, hold it for 10 seconds.

9.Clam. Lie on your left side with your knees bent 90 degrees in front of you and your feet stacked.  Keeping your feet together and your hips vertical, lift your right knee as far away from your left as possible. Hold for a moment, return to the starting position, and repeat for 15 reps. Turn onto your right side and perform 15 reps as well.

10.Piriformis seated stretch. Sitting with a straight back, cross your left leg over your right leg placing your foot next to your thigh and tuck your right leg in towards your buttocks. Place your right arm on your leg as pictured and slowly ease into a stretch. Be sure to keep your back straight and chest lifted.

As a rule of thumb, if you already have back pain and are planning to start exercising, don’t begin without doing your homework. Start by reading up on potential options from industry sources on back pain and sciatica like Back Pain Centers of America, then be sure to talk things over with your doctor or medical professional. Doing your research will help you in better understanding their suggestions, and your doctor will be able to provide a plan best suited for your medical needs. Combine all these factors together, and you will be on the path to getting rid of your pain and being back to your full range of physical activity (maybe even further).


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