13 Best Sciatica Exercises And Stretches To Ease Nerve Pain

A beneficial physical therapy to manage excruciating pain due to sciatic nerve strain

Reviewed by Eric Zielinski, DC
Written by Charushila Biswas, MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist
Edited by Ravi Teja Tadimalla, BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health
Fact-checked by Payal Karnik, MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Health & Nutrition Life Coach  • 

Sciatica refers to the nerve pain that generates from the lower back and extends to the back of the legs and feet (1). It is caused due to the irritation of the sciatic nerve – the largest nerve in your body (2). It is a common condition and about 40% of people may get sciatica once in their life (3). Sciatica may be caused due to herniated or slipped disk, aging, injury, lumbar stenosis, and rarely, tumors (4). With proper medical treatment and physical therapy, you can be completely free of this numbing pain. Read on to learn about the 13 best stretches and sciatica exercises. But first, let’s check out the most common symptoms of sciatica. Swipe up!

protip_icon Sciatica Exercises And Stretches
  • Frequency: 3–5 times per week
  • Benefits: Help relieve pain, strengthen the spine, and improve joint flexibility.
  • Equipment Needed: Exercise mat
  • Space Required: Small area
  • Assistance Required: Yes
  • Who Should Avoid: Anyone with severe lower back or sciatic nerve pain.

Common Symptoms Of Sciatica

Here are the most common symptoms of sciatica:

  • Tingling sensation in the legs
  • Backache that radiates down to your knees
  • Numbness and weakness of the lower back, hips, and legs
  • Difficulty in walking, running or moving the leg
  • Difficulty in standing up
  • Hip pain

protip_icon Did You Know?
Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of sciatica (5). Additionally, those with sciatica who are overweight typically heal more slowly from sciatica pain.

Now, let’s look at the exercises for sciatica pain.

13 Effective Sciatica Exercises And Stretches

1. Seated Pigeon Pose

Image: YouTube @raquelsfyoga3012
How To Do The Seated Pigeon Pose
  1. Sit on a mat with your knees flexed. Lean back and support your upper body by placing your fingertips on the mat diagonally behind you.
  2. Lift your right leg and place it on your left knee. Make sure your right ankle is on top of your left knee.
  3. Gently sway your left leg from left to right.
  4. Do this 10 times before switching legs.
Sets And Reps

3 sets of 10 reps on each side.

2. Reclining Pigeon Pose

Image: YouTube @SueKauffman
How To Do The Reclining Pigeon Pose
  1. Lie down on your back on a mat. Keep both your knees flexed, and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Flex your left knee, and place your left shin on your right knee.
  3. Lift your right leg off the floor, place both your palms on the back of your right thigh and pull the right knee close to your chest.
  4. Place your left palm on your left knee. Push your left knee, and pull your right thigh.
  5. Hold it for 10 seconds.
  6. Do the same on the other side as well.
Sets And Reps

2 sets of 5 reps.

3. Knee To Opposite Shoulder

Image: Youtube
How To Do The Knee To Opposite Shoulder
  1. Lie down on your back. Flex your right knee. Hug your right leg with both your hands and bring it close to your chest. Keep your toes pointed.
  2. Pull your knee toward the left side of your chest.
  3. Hold this for 10 seconds and then get back to the starting position.
  4. Do the same with your left leg.
Sets And Reps

3 sets of 5 reps on each side.

4. Cat And Cow Pose

Image: YouTube @fitnessblender
How To Do The Cat And Cow Pose
  1. Assume the Table Pose.
  2. Inhale and drop the belly down but keep your hips and upper back up toward the ceiling. Lift your head and look forward.
  3. Exhale and drop your neck down. Stretch the middle of your back up toward the ceiling. Make sure your shoulders are round and drawn toward your ears.
Sets And Reps

2 sets of 10 reps.

5. Seated Crossover Hamstring Stretch

Image: YouTube @fitnessblender
How To Do The Seated Crossover Hamstring Stretch
  1. Sit on a mat with your legs extended forward.
  2. Cross your right leg over the outside of your left leg. Place your right foot close to your left knee.
  3. Wrap your left hand around the outside of your back, and place your right hand on your left side, diagonally in front of your right leg.
  4. Bend and bring your head close to the right knee.
  5. Hold this pose for 10 seconds.
  6. Repeat on the other side.
Sets And Reps

3 sets of 10 seconds hold on each side.

6. Seated Spinal Twist

Image: YouTube @YogaWithAbi
How To Do The Seated Spinal Twist
  1. Sit on a mat with your legs extended in front of you.
  2. Flex your right knee and cross your right leg over the outside of your left leg. Keep your left foot flexed.
  3. Place your right fingertips on the mat behind you, and hug your right knee close to your chest with your left arm.
  4. Inhale and lengthen your back. Exhale and twist to your right.
  5. For a deeper stretch, bring your left elbow to the outside of your right knee, and twist to your right.
  6. Hold this pose for 10 seconds.
  7. Do this on the other side as well.
Sets And Reps

3 sets of 10 seconds hold on each side.

7. Forward Pigeon Pose

Image: YouTube @LIVESTRONG.COM
How To Do The Forward Pigeon Pose
  1. Assume the Table Pose.
  2. Bring your left ankle close to your right wrist. Slide your right leg back. Make sure your toes are pointing out.
  3. Bring your lower left leg close to your groin.
  4. Taking the support of the floor, straighten your back.
  5. Inhale and exhale 10 times before releasing the pose.
  6. Do this on the other side as well.
Sets And Reps

3 sets of 10 seconds hold on each side.

8. Shell Stretch

Image: YouTube @FitnessBlender
How To Do The Shell Stretch
  1. Kneel down and sit on your heels. Keep your toes pointed out, and place your palms close to your knees.
  2. Lean forward and bring your chest close to your knees. Keep your back straight, and look at the mat.
  3. Push your upper back up toward the ceiling without lifting your hands, neck, and hips.
  4. Hold this pose for 10 seconds.
Sets And Reps

5 sets of 10 seconds hold.

9. Reclined Cow Face Pose

How To Do The Reclined Cow Face Pose
  1. Lie down on your back. Flex your knees and bring them close to your chest. Cross your right leg over your left, place the respective hand on the respective shin, and hold. Feel the stretch in your lower back and glutes.
  2. After 10 seconds, place your hands on each foot, and hold for 10 seconds.
  3. Do the same by crossing your left leg over the right.
Sets And Reps

3 sets of 10-20 seconds hold.

10. Supine Butterfly

Image: YouTube @HASfit
How To Do The Supine Butterfly
  1. Lie down on your back. Bring the soles of your feet together by flexing both your knees. Once the soles are joined (like a Namastey!), pull your feet a little up so that you feel the stretch in your thigh and groin area.
  2. Keep your hands by your side, and palms flat on the floor. Engage your core, and without lifting your feet off the floor, lift your knees toward the ceiling.
  3. Pause for a second and then push your knees down back to the starting position.
Sets And Reps

3 sets of 12 reps.

11. Prone Torso Twist

Image: YouTube @FitnessBlender
How To Do The Prone Torso Twist
  1. Lie down on a mat with your hands by your side, and palms flat on the mat.
  2. Flex your right knee, keep your right foot flat on the floor, and twist your body to the left.
  3. Keep your left leg straight, look toward your left, keep your right hand on the floor, and count to 10.
  4. Get back to the starting position and do the same on the other side.
Sets And Reps

3 sets of 2 reps on each side.

12. Hip Stretch

Image: YouTube @AskDoctorJo
How To Do The Sciatica Hip Stretch
  1. Lie down on your belly on a mat. Rest your head on a pillow. Keep your hands close to the pillow, and palms flat on the floor.
  2. Flex your right knee so that the lower leg and the thigh are perpendicular to each other.
  3. Gently push your hip up so that your thigh is off the floor.
  4. Hold this pose for a moment and then lower your hip back to the floor.
  5. Do this five times before switching legs.
Sets And Reps

3 sets of 5 reps with each leg.

Tip: Do not lift your hips so high that your lower abs are lifted off the floor.

13. Scissor Hamstring Stretch

Woman doing scissor hamstring stretch
Image: Shutterstock

How To Do The Scissor Hamstring Stretch

  1. Stand with your left foot in front and your right foot about 3 feet behind it.
  2. Adjust your posture by moving your hips forward.
  3. Push your shoulders back. Ensure that your right hip doesn’t extend farther than your left hip.
  4. Place your hands on your hips for balance. If needed, use a chair to maintain balance.
  5. Bend at your waist and move your torso over the front leg. Keep your back straight.
  6. Maintain the body weight on your front leg and hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds.
  7. Repeat the same stretch with your opposite leg.

Sets And Reps

3 sets of 5 reps with each leg.

These are the 13 best exercises and stretches for sciatica pain. In addition to these workouts, you can try lower back exercises, upper back exercises, plank exercises (including side plank exercises), glute stretches, wall slides, and quadriceps stretches for sciatica pain. You also may consider yoga for back pain; the child’s pose, upward-facing dog pose, downward-facing dog pose, cobra pose, and bird dog exercise may help with back pain associated with sciatica. But how can these exercises help relieve pain? Find out in the following section.

How Do These Sciatica Exercises Help Relieve Pain?

The sciatica exercises target your lower back, glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings, quads, and abs. These are the best exercises for sciatica as they help soothe the sciatic nerve, strengthen your spine, and improve the flexibility of your joints. This, in turn, speeds up the healing process. Doing these exercises will also help improve your mood, and the “feel good” hormones released will help reduce pain perception.

Remember, if you have sciatica, you MUST consult a doctor. Apart from these exercises and stretches, there are other ways to treat sciatica. Here’s what you can do.

Other Treatment Options For Sciatica

  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic care
  • Massage
  • Medications
  • Tai Chi
  • Swimming
  • Walking

Many anecdotal studies suggest that practicing some core exercises, McKenzie exercises, posture exercises, spinal mobility exercises, thoracic spine stretches, and shoulder blade squeezes can help with back pain. You may also consider wall angels, deadlifts, pelvic tilt exercises, seated twists, and yoga poses like cat-cow stretch and half pigeon pose for relief. Trying out Pilates for back pain is also a good idea. However, it is advisable to consult your fitness trainer before starting any of these exercises.

Beulah, a blogger, shared her personal journey with running, starting at the age of twenty-six and continuing through the years. At sixty-three, facing leg aches and decreased energy, she has shifted to alternating walking and running intervals. She notes, “I had loved running; and physical therapy and daily stretching had cured the sciatica that made me ache (i).”

You can opt for any of these along with medicines or go for surgery. But you have to be careful while doing these exercises to prevent aggravating the pain. Here’s a list of what you should take care of while doing these exercises.

Precautions

  • Be slow and gentle if you are doing these exercises for the first time.
  • Exercise every day.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Maintain good posture.
  • Take supplements for vitamins D and K after consulting your doctor.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Take rest and sleep for 7 hours.
protip_icon Quick Tip
Avoid sitting for more than 20 minutes. Instead, get up and take a little stroll before sitting down again. Staying active can help you prevent the stiffness that comes with nerve pain.

Sciatica exercises not only help provide relief from the typical nerve pain but also help improve the range of mobility and ease of walking. Reclining and seated pigeon pose, cat and cow pose, seated spinal twist, and shell stretch are a few of the 13 exercises mentioned above that can help improve this painful condition. Proper medication, rest, and physiotherapy go hand in hand in improving the signs and symptoms of sciatica.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get my sciatic nerve to stop hurting fast?

You can use heat and ice therapy alternately for quick relief from sciatic nerve pain. You may also take over-the-counter pain relievers.

What happens if sciatica is left untreated?

Untreated sciatic nerve damage may make the condition permanent and symptoms such as tingling, numbness, and pain may worsen.

How long will sciatica take to heal?

Acute sciatica may heal within 6 weeks. Chronic sciatica is a life long condition and can only be managed with treatment.

How many times a day should you do sciatica exercises?

You can do sciatica exercises 3 to 5 times a day.

Key Takeaways

  • A prominent sciatica symptom is numbing pain that radiates from the back to the knees.
  • Try simple stretch exercises, like the knee stretch, or yoga poses, like the cow pose, and slowly advance towards complex ones like the hamstring stretch or spinal twists.
  • These exercises release the pressure on the sciatic nerve and provide pain relief.
  • Pressure on the sciatic nerve can be caused due to excess weight that can be burned with a good daily exercise regimen.
  • Other sciatic treatments include acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, and medication.
Sciatica Exercises_illustration

Image: Dall·E/StyleCraze Design Team

Learn 3 safe exercises to help relieve sciatica pain. Tune into this informative video and avail tips on how to reduce discomfort and improve mobility for a more active lifestyle.

Personal Experience: Source

References

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. The Clinical Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Management Strategies for Sciatica: Systematic Review and Economic Model
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK99305/
  2. Sciatica
    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sciatica/
  3. Knowledge and Attitude of Sciatica Pain and Treatment Methods among Adults in Saudi Arabia
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9444434/
  4. Diagnosis and treatment of sciatica
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1895638/
  5. Obesity as a risk factor for sciatica: a meta-analysis
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24569641/
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