Sciatic nerve pain can literally bring your knees to the floor—or your back to the ground. There are countless reasons for sciatica, such as a ruptured disk, spinal stenosis, or a vast array of other bodily injuries in general. Specialist Mindy Marantz argues that, “Identifying what doesn’t move is the first step toward solving the problem.” More specifically, the lower back and hips are two areas to check first when sciatic nerve pain is suspected of causing unbearable pain. According to Dr. Mark Kovacs (certified strength and conditioning specialist), performing “any stretch that can externally rotate the hip to provide some relief” should be beneficial.
Unfortunately, sciatic nerve pain can spread to the lower limbs and feet, in part because the sciatic nerve connects the femur to the spine; it is the primary muscle when it comes to outward movement of hips, upper legs, and feet. Piriformis syndrome occurs when the sciatic nerve passes through the muscle, and this results in lower back and hip pain. 40% of individuals will experience sciatica or sciatic nerve pain throughout their lifetimes, and many of these people will use acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, ketoprofen, or naproxen in order to ease their pain.
Muscle relaxants, antidepressants, and pain medications are also sometimes prescribed, but it’s best to try special exercises first in order to avoid any potential side effects that could end up being worse than the initial pain itself. Remember to consult your spine specialist, warm up first by taking a walk or by performing an activity of your choice, and then follow the instructions below in order to alleviate your pain or discomfort.
#1: Supine Piriformis Stretch
Lie down with knees bent up, and cross your injured leg over the other by bending it up toward your chest. Clutch your knee with one hand and your ankle with your other hand, and pull toward your shoulder in-line with your ankle. Hold until you feel your glutes and buttocks stretch for 30 seconds.
#2: Standing Piriformis Stretch
Stand, place your injured leg over your other leg’s knee (to form a “4”), lower your hip at a 45 degree angle, bend your standing leg’s knee as needed, and lean your torso forward while extending your arms parallel to the floor. Keep your spine straight, hold for 30-60 seconds, and repeat with your other leg.
#3: Outer Hip Piriformis Stretch
Lie down, bend your injured leg up with your foot near the back of your other leg’s knee, put your foot behind your other leg’s knee, and twist your leg to the other side with your knee touching the ground. If you’re stretching your left leg, put your right hand on your knee and raise your left arm in the air. Lower your arm in the opposite direction of the knee while trying to touch your shoulder to the floor. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat wit other leg.
#4: Long Adductor Stretch
Sit down, stretch your legs straight out and far apart, tilt your torso forward, and put your hands on the ground beside one another. Attempt to touch the floor with your elbows while leaning forward and hold for 20 seconds.
#5: Short Adductor Stretch
Sit down and place the soles of your feet together in front of you. Hold your ankles with opposite hands, push down with your knees, and attempt to reach the floor. Hold for 30 seconds and then flutter your legs for 30 seconds.
#6: Side Lying Clam Exercise
Lay on your side with your injured hip high, bend legs back into an “L,” and make sure to keep one foot over your other foot and your legs parallel. Don’t bend your spine or body, keep your injured hip high, keep your feet together, raise the top knee up, and keep your body in the initial position. Repeat 15 times total.
#7: Hip Extension Exercise
Put your hands and knees on the floor, keep your hands in line with your shoulders, take your weight off your injured leg, and raise that leg up with your knee bent. Lower your leg and repeat 15 times.
#8: Supine Piriformis Side Stretch
Lay on the floor, keep your back straight, keep your legs flat, bend your injured leg up and put your foot on the outside of your other leg close to the knee. Pull the knee of your injured leg across the mid-line of your body and ensure you do not raise your shoulders or hips off the floor. Hold for 30 seconds, switch legs, repeat 3 times.
#9: Buttocks Stretch for the Piriformis Muscle
Go down on all fours, put your injured leg’s foot under your truck, twist it toward your other side near your hip, and point your knee toward your shoulder. Touch your forehead to the floor, stretch your other leg out behind you, and keep your pelvis straight. Push your hips toward the ground, hold for 30 seconds, repeat 3 times.
#10: Seated Stretch
Sit in a chair, cross your injured leg over your other knee, put your chest forward, and keep your spine straight. Hold for 2 breaths, bend slightly further, hold for 30 seconds, and repeat with your other leg.