The sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in your body that runs from the bottom of the spine down into each of your legs. Recent studies show 5 to 10 % of Americans suffer from the many forms of Sciatic pain. When it becomes irritated, whether from a slipped disc, spinal infection, or direct injury, it will cause searing pains, tingles or numbness into one or both of your legs or even down to your feet. The pain may be mild but usually causes extreme discomfort throughout the day, especially to those sitting for a majority. For your Sciatica or lower back injury try these 9 essential exercises and stretches to help relieve the nerve.
This hamstring stretch is great to start out with, as the simple movements will help elongate the hamstrings and back muscles. Begin this stretch by getting on the floor and sitting tall with your back straight up and your legs stretched out in front of you. With your legs a few inches apart, but not wide enough to open your hips, slowly bend at the waist while reaching your arm towards your toes. Grab your toes if possible and hold this position. Drive your collarbone towards your knees for a deeper stretch and hold for five breaths.
Knee to Chest Stretch
Another manageable stretch is moving the knee to chest. Initiate this next exercise by lying on a mat or cushion on the floor, flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. Then slowly bring your right knee up to your chest and link your hands around your calf to hug it close. You will begin to feel this stretch around your Sciatic nerve. For a deeper relief, keep your other bent leg flat against the floor. Try and hold this for 20- 30 seconds then switch sides. Repeat three reps for each leg.
Lying Knee Lift Exercise
This exercise reduces the pain by extending the muscles in your legs around the problem area. This uncomplicated exercise is a lot like the knee to chest stretch above but with additional movements. Begin this gesture by laying on the floor with a flat back and your hand underneath your lower back. Bend both of your knees while beginning to lift feet off the ground until your calves are parallel with the floor. Then lower your legs back into a bent knee or straight on the floor position. Repeat for 30 seconds with a total of three reps. There are many modifications to the exercise to ensure not furthering your injury.
This advanced stretch will help manage lower back irritation if done properly. Go into this stretch by lying on a flat back with your legs extended straight. Start by lifting your right knee into your left hand, pulling it close into your left shoulder. You may use your right hand to rotate the hip slowly side to side by grabbing your ankle. If you need extra support, lift your left leg up like in the figure four position. Hold this stretch for five breaths before switching sides and repeat three to five times.
Back Extension Exercise
This exercise is also known as an upward dog pose in a yoga flow; this stretch will elongate your spine and back muscles without putting added pressure on your hips. Start this exercise on your stomach lying on the floor. Keep your hands flat on the floor aligned with your shoulders. Slowly lift up your chest, straightening your arms for support. If you have difficulty getting your arms straight, use your elbows and forearms for the extra support. Hold this position for five breaths before lowering to the ground and repeat three to five times.
Wall Leg with Rotation Exercise
For this exercise, you will need access to a blank wall with some space around you. Begin by sitting with your back against the floor and your legs stretched out above you on the wall. Try to get your buttock as close to the wall as possible. Keep your legs about an arms distance apart for the exercise and slowly being to rotate your ankles and calves toward one another. Then slowly turn out your feet and ankles, which rotates the hips from the feet up. Repeat this pattern for five to ten times.
Figure Four Stretch
This stretch is key to reducing the agony caused by Sciatica. Once again, begin on your back on a matted floor with your legs bent at the knee. Push in your heels close to your glutes, then lift one ankle crossing the other knee creating a figure four with your legs. Hold for five breaths before switching legs. You will feel this stretch around your hip of your lifted leg. To increase intensity, push down on the lifted knee or push out the leg underneath.
Spinal Twist Exercise
This exercise helps lengthen your spine and improve your posture, which will help the long-term effects of Sciatica. Begin in a seated position with your legs extended out in front of you. Then take your right leg and lift it over your left leg, bending at the knee. Your foot should rest against your outer knee or thigh. Once stable in this pose twist your torso to the right to feel the stretch. For added resistance in this stretch, tuck your left leg back. Hold this position for five breaths before switching sides and repeat up to five times.Related: 10 Yoga Poses That Will Help Lower Back Pain