People with sciatica often avoid exercising because they don't want to aggravate the condition. Unfortunately, avoidance makes the problem worse. Physical therapists recommend trying at least five exercises to improve mobility and reduce pain.
1. Pelvic Tilt
To perform the pelvic tilt, lie on your back. Bend your legs, bringing your feet toward your butt, and put your arms flat by your sides.
Before lifting your hips off the floor, tighten your core muscles. Putting pressure on your bike like you were pressing it into the floor, lift the pelvis and hips slightly and hold, remembering to breathe.
After a few seconds, release the hold, lowering your hips back to the floor. Repeat the exercise eight to 12 times.
The knee-to-chest exercise targets the upper thigh and lower buttocks. Again, lie on your back, legs bent and feet flat. Keeping one foot flat on the floor, lift the other, bringing the knee to your chest.
Your back should remain flat against the floor. Continue to hold the knee to your chest for about 30 seconds. After you release, do the same with the opposite leg. Repeat the exercise two to four times on each side.
You can increase the difficulty level by keeping one leg stretched and flat on the floor while lifting the other. Another version of the exercise requires lifting both knees to the chest simultaneously.
3. Glute Bridges
Glute muscles play a significant role in managing sciatic pain. If the muscles are too tight, they can press on the nerve. Glute bridges help to stretch and loosen the muscles.
Lie on the floor on your back. Bend your knees and place your feet about shoulder-width apart. Keep your arms at your sides, relaxed. Pushing into your heels, lift your hips. Your body should make a straight line from the knees to the shoulders. Hold the position for a few seconds before slowly lowering your hips to the floor. Do two to three sets with eight to 10 reps, and focus on form.
4. Standing Hamstring Stretch
Changing things up, you will need to stand for the hamstring stretch. Also, hold on to something to ensure balance and safety. This exercise is best used with a designated raised platform, like a stair step.
Stand tall with one foot on the step and the other on the floor. The toes on the step should point upward. Keep your back straight and lean forward slightly. You should feel tension or pulling in the hamstring area. Hold the position for 30 seconds.
Swap legs and repeat the exercise. Perform a minimum of two to three reps with each leg.
5. Deep Gluteal Stretch
The deep gluteal stretch might be a little challenging for those with limited flexibility. Like other exercises for sciatica, you will start on the floor with your legs bent. Raise your left ankle and rest it on your right knee.
With hands together and fingers laced behind your right thigh, pull the thigh toward your upper body. Your head and back should remain on the floor. Hold the position for 30 seconds before releasing and repeating on the opposite side. Perform two or three reps per side.
If you have sciatica, give any of the above exercises a try. However, talk to your doctor first.