Sciatica pain is an excruciating and radiating pain that travels from your lower back to you leg. Here are some stretches that can give you relief.

Have you been experiencing radiating pain that starts from your lower back and goes down the back of your leg? It may be time to get yourself checked for sciatica. This excruciating pain is generally caused by the sciatica nerve being irritated or pinched due to other back issues. The National Institute of Health states that sciatica pain is fairly common in the US, with 10-40 per cent of population being diagnosed with it in their lifetime. It also reports an an annual incidence of 1-5 percent in the US. However, there are various stretches and exercises that can help you get sciatica pain relief.

What is sciatica?

Sciatica is a condition that is characterised by pain along the sciatic nerve’s pathway. It refers to pain that radiates from the buttock down the path of the lumbosacral nerve roots. “Sciatica pain has been recognised since ancient times, with Hippocrates being one of the first to use the term,” says physiotherapist Dr Sourabh Sane.

What causes sciatic pain?

Sciatica is caused when the sciatic nerve is compressed due to a back issue. These issues can be as follows:

1. Herniated lumbar disc

This is the most common culprit. The spinal disc is filled with this jelly-like centre that is called the nucleus. The nuclear is enclosed in a rubbery exterior body called the annulus. When the nuclear spills out of the annulus due to a fair, the patient experiences a herniated lumbar disc.

2. Spondylolisthesis

This happens with the vertebra is displaced and the bone slides onto the bone below it. This generally happens due to a fracture.

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woman doing bridge exercise.
Bridges are a great workout to help with sciatica. Image courtesy: Freepik

3. Lumbar stenosis

This condition refers to narrowing of the spinal canal. This happens in the lowest part of the back.

4. Foraminal stenosis

In this condition, a part of your spine narrows down. This leads to compression of the spinal nerves.

5. Malignancy

Be it kidney cancer or prostrate cancer, they all can lead to sciatic pain. This study, published in The Pan African Medical Journal states that sciatica is a symptom of kidney cancer.

Also Read: Why is sciatica so painful? Find out how to relieve the pain

Symptoms of sciatica

There is no single symptom or test with high sensitivity or specificity to check sciatica. The diagnosis relies heavily on patient history and physical examination, says Dr Sane. Key indicators include:

1. Dominant leg pain

The pain would be shooting and often radiates down the leg. The pain can get triggered with simple activities such as coughing, sneezing, lifting or bending your legs.

2. Sensory changes

The pain generally happens in the form of pins and needles. The same sensation you get when your leg falls asleep.

3. Muscle weakness and reflex alterations

This happens in severe cases. This means that the muscles in your back or legs aren’t being able to receive command signals.

Best stretches for sciatica pain

Incorporating specific stretches into one’s routine can complement conservative management strategies for sciatica. “Stretching exercises for sciatica aim to improve flexibility, alleviate muscle tension, and promote spinal health,” says Dr Sane. Some beneficial stretches include:

1. Hamstring stretches

This can be done following these steps:

  • Place your foot on an elevated surface at the level of your hip, or below it. You can use a chair or stool for this.
  • Now, flex your foot forward and straighten your toes and leg.
  • Bend your body towards your foot now. Push till the time you don’t feel the pain.
  • Make sure your hip goes down as your stretch.
  • Hold this position, and repeat with the other leg.
a woman with back ache
sciatica pain cab be triggered due to back problems. Image courtesy: Freepik

2. Piriformis stretches

This can be done following these steps:

  • Place the leg that you have sciatica pain in, over the knee of the other leg.
  • Bend your standing leg and lower your hips.
  • Bend your waist while keeping your back straight.
  • Hold this position, and then switch legs.

Also Read: 6 effective ways to manage sciatica pain during pregnancy

3. Knee to opposite shoulder stretches

This can be done following these steps:

  • Start by lying on your back, with your legs straight and feet extended.
  • Bend your leg at the knee and wrap your arms around it.
  • Now pull this leg upto the opposite shoulder. Do it till you just feel a stretch in your knee, but no pain.
  • Bring your leg back to starting position by pushing your knee.
  • Do this three times and then switch the leg.

4. Pelvic tilts

This can be done by following these steps

  • Lie on your back
  • Exhale and tighten the muscles in your abdomen
  • Push your belly button downwards, while making your back flat
  • Hold this position.

5. Bridges

This can be done by following these steps

  • Lie down on your back.
  • Raise your hips and get them in a straight line as your knees and shoulders
  • Hold this position.

6. Seated spinal twists

This can be done by following these steps

  • Sit on the ground.
  • Stretch your legs in front of you and flex your feet.
  • Bend one knee.
  • Now, place this foot besides the knee of the opposite foot, crossing it.

7. Cat-cow stretches

This can be done by following these steps

  • Kneel down on all fours and position your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
  • Now arch your back gently as your exhale.
  • Hold this position.
  • Now round your back, as you inhale.
  • Hold this position.

8. Sciatic nerve glides

This can be done by following these steps

  • Sit on a chair, keep your back stright.
  • Now strighten one knee, and keep the other foot flat on the floor.
  • Now point your toes towards your by bending the ankle, and then point them away from you, then towards you, so on and so forth.
  • Now try this same movement while bending your heard forward.

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