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Our Four Top Exercises For Sciatic Pain

July 18th, 2022 by
Category: Dr. Wilson Fisher-Van Der Veen Sciatica

Sciatica is commonly used to describe radiating leg pain. It is most commonly caused by inflammation or compression of the lumbosacral nerve roots (L4-S1) forming the sciatic nerve. The pain usually only occurs on one side. Sciatica can cause severe discomfort and functional limitations that affect quality of life and productivity.

What does sciatic pain feel like?

People with sciatica often describe aching and sharp leg pain radiating below the knee and into the foot and toes. The pain can have a sudden or slow onset and varies in severity. Many people report coexisting low back pain. More common pain at the back or side of the leg and into the foot and toes, however, pain can also be localised to the front and lateral side of the thigh. Tingling or numbness and loss of muscle strength in the same leg are other symptoms that suggest nerve root involvement.  

What are some of the common causes/triggers of sciatica?

Compression of the nerve root and resultant inflammation plays a role in sciatica. The most common cause of sciatica is disc herniation resulting from age-related degenerative changes. Smoking, obesity, and manual labour are other common modifiable risk factors in patients’ lifestyles. Sciatica is rarely caused by trauma. 

What can help sciatica?

Conservative treatment

Initial treatment is aimed at managing pain and maintaining function while the compression and/or inflammation subsides. It is important to remain active and avoid long periods of rest so that the condition interferes as little as possible with daily life. Pay attention and report any change in symptoms, such as increasing leg pain, numbness, or weakness in the leg to your Chiropractor. 

Exercises and Chiropractic Adjustments

Exercise reduces the intensity of leg pain in the short term and is more of a temporary band-aid fix. Your Chiropractor can guide you on appropriate exercises and how to perform these correctly. The Chiropractor will gauge the severity of your pain and your ability to perform certain exercises when making recommendations.

Manual therapy, such as Chiropractic adjustments alongside the exercises can give your body the best chance to function at its best and relieve pressure off of the sciatic nerve to help get the best long-term relief.

Massage

You may have tight muscles as a result of sciatica pain. Massage may also help alongside Chiropractic adjustments to loosen up your muscles, alleviating some pain and improving mobility and flexibility. 

Our 4 top exercises for sciatic nerve pain

1. Pelvic Tilt

image of pelvic tilt exercise

Purpose: To strengthen the lower abdominal muscles and stretch the low back.

How to perform a pelvic tilt: 

  • Lie on your back. 
  • Exhale and tighten your abdominal muscles while pushing your belly button toward the floor and flattening your lower back.
  • Hold the position for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat the pelvic tilt 10 times holding the position for 5 seconds each time.

2. Knees to chest

photo of dr glen performing knees to chest exercise

Purpose: To help reduce nerve compression in your low back, which may help alleviate lower back pain. 

How to perform knees to chest:

  • Lay on your back. 
  • Starting with either your left or right knee, use your hands to gently pull the bent knee toward your chest. 
  • Hold for 10 seconds. 
  • Repeat the movement with the opposite knee. 
  • Perform the movement 3 to 5 times holding the position for 10 seconds each time.
  • Next, use your hands to gently pull both knees toward your chest. 
  • Hold for 10 seconds. 
  • Repeat the movement with both knees 3 to 5 times holding the position for 10 seconds each time. 

3. Lower trunk rotations

dr. glen performing lower trunk rotation exercise

Purpose: To increase your spine’s mobility and flexibility.

How to perform lower trunk rotations:

  • Lay on your back with both legs straight  
  • Bring one leg across your body and hold for 3 to 5 seconds. You will feel a gentle stretching sensation in the opposite side of your lower back and hip area. 
  • Next, repeat on the opposite side and hold for 3 to 5 seconds. 
  • Repeat up to 10 times on each side. 

4. All fours opposite arm and leg extensions

dr glen performing all fours arm and leg extensions

Purpose: To strengthen your abdominal muscles and low back, stabilising those areas.

How to perform this exercise:

  • Begin by positioning yourself on all fours. 
  • Contract your abdominal muscles to help keep your back flat and straight.
  • Raise one leg upward behind you and straighten it outward. 
  • Hold for 3 to 5 seconds. 
  • Repeat the movement on your opposite side. 
  • When you can perform this exercise 10 times with tolerable pain, you can add arm movement with each leg extension: 
  • Extend the arm (opposite side from the leg) upward and outward in front of your body.
  • Hold for 3 to 5 seconds. 
  • Repeat on the opposite side. 
  • Perform this exercise up to 10 times. 

How to prevent sciatic pain

The abdominal and spinal muscles are essential components of the spine’s support system. These 4 low-impact exercises, when performed correctly, can help strengthen your spine and increase its flexibility and range of motion which can result in reduced pain and faster healing. 

Some basic preventive measures may help reduce the risk of sciatica or prevent damage to the back, which can cause pain.

Some basic prevention tips include: 

  • Using proper techniques to lift heavy items 
  • Engaging in regular exercise to strengthen the muscles 
  • Avoiding prolonged periods of sitting or standing 
  • Avoiding activities that may trigger pain, such as bending and twisting
  • Spending time warming up the muscles before using them 

To summarise, conservative and manual treatment for sciatica is by far the safest and most effective form of treatment. Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve becomes compressed or irritated, sometimes due to a herniated disc in the spine. Strengthening the muscles and increasing flexibility in the area through exercises and regular Chiropractic adjustments may help speed recovery and prevent further injury. If you have any signs or symptoms of sciatica you should consider getting in touch with your local Chiropractor today. 

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