What Is the Best Exercise to Relieve Sciatica?

Medically Reviewed on 4/22/2022

What are the common types of exercises that may relieve sciatic pain?

Sciatica is a symptom itself rather than a specific diagnosis.
Learn the most common stretches and exercises that can help relieve sciatica pain and strengthen muscles in the back and abdomen.

Sciatic pain may be sometimes relieved by exercises. Exercises can ease symptoms and muscle tension. Do not perform any exercises without consulting your doctor.

  • Stretching exercises: Stretches for the lower back and buttock muscles are particularly useful. Hold stretches for 20-30 seconds, rest, and repeat the same stretch once or even twice more. 
  • Mobility and strengthening: If sciatica is caused by a lumbar disk prolapse (slipped disk), then extension exercises are recommended to help reduce the compression of the disk on the nerve root. 
  • Core exercises: Core strengthening exercises to strengthen the core muscles of the trunk is a popular option for managing back conditions.

14 Best stretches and exercises to relieve sciatica pain

  1. Hamstring stretch:
    • Choose a simple hamstring stretch that involves lifting your leg and placing your heel on a step.
    • Lean forward, keeping the leg straight and your foot contracted until you feel a mild stretch at the back of your leg.
    • Another excellent choice is to execute the yoga position downward-facing dog. This position is both calming and beneficial in terms of stretching out the entire back of your leg.
  2. Rotational stretch:
    • Lie down on your back for this stretch. Bend your knees and slide your feet up toward your buttocks. 
    • Allow your knees to bend to the right toward the ground as much as is comfortable while striving to retain your shoulders in a neutral position. 
    • Maintain this stance. Raise your knees again and then allow them to fall to the left to stretch the opposite side. 
    • This stretch is beneficial to both the piriformis muscle and sacroiliac joints.
  3. Cat and camel:
    • Begin in a tabletop posture, with your hands and knees placed on the ground and your head in a neutral position. 
    • Drop your chin to your chest and round your back while breathing in to enter the cat position. 
    • Move your head and look up at the ceiling slowly while arching your back to enter a camel stance. 
    • Allow your pelvis to tilt with these motions and take deep breaths while you alternate between the two stances.
  4. Gluteal stretch:
    • Lay on your back and bring both knees up to your chest. 
    • Rotate your right leg such that your right ankle rests on top of your left knee. 
    • Pull your left leg in toward you gently. On the right side, you should feel a strong stretch in your hips and glutes. 
    • When performing this stretch, take care not to put too much pressure on your rotating knee to avoid injury to the knee joint, and just apply as much resistance as is comfortable.
  5. Quadruped raises:
    • Get on your hands and knees on the floor in a tabletop position for this exercise
    • You'll alternate lifting your right hand and left leg, extending them out in front and behind you, then lowering them and raising your right hand and left leg. 
    • You'll extend out as far as you can reach with each set.
    • Make sure to touch your buttocks every time you stretch your leg behind you.
  6. Donkey kicks:
    • This exercise, like the quadruped rises, begins with you in a tabletop position on the ground. It's an easy move to do. 
    • Simply lift your right leg off the ground and swing your bent leg backward. 
    • The action should be similar to trying to kick the ceiling with your heel. 
    • Your knee should always be at a 90° angle, but once you lift your leg behind you, clench your glutes, hold the posture for a second, and then repeat.
  7. Flutter kicks:
    • This exercise is fantastic for both your core and glutes. 
    • Lie down on your stomach on the floor. Lift both your arms and legs off the floor at the same moment. Feel your core activate. 
    • While in this posture, softly flap your feet as if you were swimming freestyle in a pool. 
    • Hold for around 30 seconds before releasing. Repeat after a little pause. 
    • During this exercise, make sure you're concentrating on keeping your core and buttocks muscles tight.
  8. Bridges:
    • Bridges are the go-to exercise for any core, gluteal or hip-strengthening routine and come with heavy physiotherapist recommendation. 
    • They are simple to implement and may have a significant effect on your core stability.
    • Lay on the ground and raise your heels toward your buttocks for this exercise. Raise your hips and work your way into a flat plank with your shoulders, hips, and knees. 
    • To accomplish this, you must completely engage your core. Hold this posture for a few seconds before releasing down. 
    • If you find this simple bridge too easy, make it more difficult by alternately raising your feet at a marching pace while holding the bridge.
  9. Knee-to-chest:
    • To begin, lie on a firm surface with your legs bent at the knee, feet flat on the ground, and arms at your sides. 
    • Then, raise one knee to your chest while keeping the other foot on the floor.
    • Wrap your arms over your elevated leg, pushing it as close to your chest as you can. 
    • Remember to maintain both sides of your back pressed up to the floor for proper form. 
    • Hold this posture for 30 seconds before repeating it on the opposite side.
    • If you want to progress this exercise from a stretch to a weight-bearing workout without aggravating your sciatica, wrap a leg weight around your ankles or thighs.
  10. Pelvic tilt:
    • To begin, lie on your back with your knees bent and your arms relaxed, like you would at the commencement of the knee-to-chest exercise. 
    • Then, engage your core and tilt your hips and pelvis upward as you press your back into the floor, yoga mat, bed, or wherever you're resting. 
    • Engage your glutes and tighten those muscles if possible. This exercise is held for 30 seconds before being repeated.
    • To spice up your pelvic tilts, pull yourself into a bridge using the muscles on the back of your legs. 
  11. Leg lift:
    • You'll begin by sitting with your back straight and your feet flat on the ground.
    • Before you begin lifting, place the afflicted leg out in front of you with your heel on the ground and your toes pointing up.
    • Stretch your hamstrings and calves to see how they feel. If it's too painful, this is the most you can go. If it isn't, you can start lifting.
    • Maintain a straight but not hyperextended knee and a leg in line with your hips. Now, raise your leg as far as it will go.
    • Then, repeat the exercise on the opposite side. This time, however, aim for repetitions of leg lifts if necessary, place your hands linked behind the back of your hamstring for support. 
  12. Cobra pose:
    • Place your arms up firmly behind your shoulders and forearms on the ground, and try to elevate your chest while maintaining your hips flat against the floor.
    • Raise even higher if you can, and place your weight on your hands rather than your forearms.
    • Hold this for 10 seconds and then take a 10-second break.
    • Perform three repetitions of this exercise and then assess how you feel.
  13. Laying-down leg curl:
    • The leg curl is easier to perform using a machine, but if you don't have access to a gym, you may modify these for a home exercise.
    • Lie on your stomach with your arms in the most comfortable position. 
    • Then, elevate both legs by bending at the knees and bringing your heels as near to your buttocks as possible. 
    • Then, putting your feet back in line with your hips, continue the exercise for 15 reps.
  14. Sit-and-stand squat:
    • You'll begin by standing with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed straight ahead of you. 
    • You should have a chair or bench behind you that is far enough away for you to sit on. 
    • Squat with your hands clasped in front of you, bending at the knees and activating your core, until your buttocks are gently contacting the seat. 
    • You then hoist yourself up without sitting by engaging your quadriceps.
    • Repeat this 10 times and then take a break. 
    • Do another 10 reps if you're still able. While your legs may be uncomfortable the next day, your back will be grateful in the long term.

When it comes to sciatica, exercise is crucial, and stretching or weight lifting may make all the difference when healing. These simple motions, when combined with cold and heat therapy and following doctor recommendations, can give long-term treatment for all sorts of people with the condition.


Back Pain: 16 Back Pain Truths and Myths See Slideshow

What are the symptoms of sciatica?

Sciatica is a symptom itself rather than a specific diagnosis. It is the term used to describe any type of shooting pain that begins at the spine and radiates through the buttocks and down the back of the leg and as far as the foot.

Sciatica symptoms can range from a mild nuisance to sharp, shooting pain and discomfort. Symptoms are most often temporary and vary greatly depending on the condition causing sciatica.

Symptoms of sciatica include:

  • Shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand up or move suddenly, which may worsen with cough or sneezing
  • Constant lower back pain or tingling sensation
  • Pain in the rear or one leg that worsens while sitting
  • Hip pain
  • Weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg or foot
  • A minor movement such as bending over to pick something up (trigger for sciatic pain)

In severe cases, patients may lose sensation in the leg and may also have difficulty controlling the bowels and bladder.

What are the common causes of sciatica?

Sciatica is usually the symptom of a pinched nerve affecting one or more of the lower spinal nerves. The nerve might be pinched inside or outside of the spinal canal as it passes through the leg.

Some causes of sciatica include:

  • Herniated or slipped disk: It is the most common cause of sciatica that causes pressure on a nerve root.
  • Piriformis syndrome: Small piriformis muscle, which lies deep in the buttocks, becomes tight and spasms, thus creating pressure and causing irritation to the sciatic nerve.
  • Spinal stenosis: It is a narrowing of the spinal canal that puts pressure on the nerves.
  • Spondylolisthesis: It occurs when one vertebra slips so that it is out of line with the one above it, narrowing the opening through which the sciatic nerve exits.
  • Degenerative disk disease: It is caused by the wear and tear and effects of aging on the spine.
  • Osteoarthritis: It is characterized by the formation of bone spurs (bits of protruding bone) that may press the nerve roots. It is mostly seen in older people.
  • Pregnancy: Sciatica is often associated with pregnancy in women.
  • A spinal tumor is rare but may also cause sciatica pain

Severe injury to the spine or back may sometimes compress the sciatic nerve leading to lower back pain.

What are the common treatment options for sciatica?

Sciatica can be relieved by treating symptoms and underlying causes, such as a slipped disk. Depending on the underlying cause of sciatica, various treatments and therapies may be recommended, including:

  • Bed rest and frequent changing of the body posture may help in relieving the symptoms.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil and Motrin (ibuprofen) and Aleve and Naprosyn (naproxen) help to control inflammation and pain. NSAIDs should only be used as recommended by your physician.
  • Muscle relaxants are prescribed to ease muscle tension and pain.
  • Corticosteroid medications that are generally given through direct injection into the spine may reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Antidepressants are usually prescribed to reduce nerve pain.
  • Non Opioid pain drugs that work at the opioid receptor (Tramadol) are given for the treatment of severe sciatic pain.
  • Short-term opioids may also help in treating sciatica pain.
  • Chiropractic therapies, such as spinal manipulation, electrical stimulation, and trigger-point therapy, are generally recommended for limiting the symptoms.
  • Complementary therapies, such as yoga, acupuncture, massage, and biofeedback, are considered to relax the body and nerves.
  • Physical therapy and exercises are prescribed to improve muscle strength in the back and abdomen, increase flexibility and movement, and reduce pain.
  • Surgery may relieve severe pain or solve bowel incontinence, bladder incontinence, or leg weakness. Surgical options include laminectomy or discectomy, both of which relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve.

Sciatica may always recur. To minimize the chances of recurrence, people should exercise regularly, maintain proper posture, and protect the back by bending at the knees to lift heavier objects.

Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Medically Reviewed on 4/22/2022
Sciatica: https://www.drugs.com/health-guide/sciatica.html


Sciatica: Exercises for Pain Relief https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/sciatica-exercises-pain-relief

Top 3 Stretches For Sciatica & Sciatic Nerve Stretches https://www.joionline.net/trending/content/top-3-sciatic-nerve-stretches

6 Stretches for Sciatica Pain Relief https://siragusochiropractic.net/blog/6-stretches-for-sciatica-pain-relief/