The best exercises for sciatica

Chiropractic Doctor Shawnee, KS

Sciatica is one of the most misunderstood types of pain. Affecting nearly 40% of people, this ailment becomes more prevalent with age. Individuals who suffer from back pain are more prone to developing sciatica. Typically sciatica is grouped together with back pain, however, this pain is different as it originates from the sciatic nerves.

What is sciatica?

The sciatic nerves are the two largest nerves in the body. These nerves are as thick as your little finger, running from the lower lumbar spine, through the buttocks, down the back of each leg, through the soles of each foot, and up to your big toes. Pain occurs anywhere along the nerve when one of the roots or nerve fibers becomes pinched or aggravated. Sciatica pain episodes manifest in a wide array of ways including dull pain, numbness, tingling, throbbing, or even a sharp, electric shock. Some individuals may find the pain mildly annoying, while others may experience excruciating pain. Individuals who are overweight, sedentary, and have a herniated disc, or osteoarthritis are at higher risk of developing sciatica.

Treatment and prevention

For most individuals, sciatica often goes away on its own within a couple of days. However, there are some rare cases in which the pain will continue for several weeks or months. Rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and ice can help alleviate the pain.

Once the pain subsides, preventing recurring sciatica attacks is the best option. According to Harvard Health (, the best thing to prevent such attacks is to get up and get moving. Many individuals fear that activity will increase their pain. However, low-impact activity and daily exercise can actually help to strengthen the surrounding muscles, which in return will help to prevent future attacks. The best types of physical activity include swimming, water aerobics, cycling, yoga, Pilates, and daily back stretching.

Best exercises for sciatica

The following are the best exercises and stretches to prevent future sciatica attacks:

  • Pigeon Pose. Lie on your back on a smooth, flat surface with both knees bent and feet on the ground. Gently pull your left knee to your chest until a stretch is felt. Hold for 30 seconds. Release stretch, and repeat on the other side. Repeat the stretch 5 to 10 times on each leg.

  • Knees to chest. Lie on your back with both knees bent on a smooth, flat surface. Gently pull both knees to your chest until a stretch is felt. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Slowly release. Repeat stretch 5 to 10 times.

  • Abdomen engaged. Lie on your back with your knees bent and both feet flat on the floor. Stretch your arms out to the side. Slowly flatten your lower back to the floor, drawing in your abdominal muscles. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Slowly release. Repeat exercise 5 to 10 times.

  • Hamstring stretch. Place your right foot on an elevated surface (at or below hip level). Flex your foot and keep your leg straight. Slowly bend your body forward toward your foot. Hold for 30 seconds. Release, and repeat on the opposite side. Repeat stretch 5 to 10 times.

Performing these stretches and muscle-strengthening exercises daily will help to subside future pain episodes. Exercises should be performed three times daily once sciatic pain has subsided.

If you are experiencing sciatic pain, consider a consult with the chiropractic doctor Shawnee, KS relies on LifeWorks Integrative Health which can help assess your needs and create a treatment plan that works for you.