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Spine Stretch and Sciatica Exercises for the Elderly

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
Spine Stretch and Sciatica Exercises for the Elderly
Stretches for the back can help alleviate the pain of sciatica. Photo Credit AndreyPopov/iStock/Getty Images

That searing, burning sensation shooting down from your buttocks and radiating into the backs of your legs is a telltale sign of sciatica. While anyone at any age can acquire the condition because of a disc herniation, bone degeneration or tight piriformis and hip muscles, it can be particularly aggravating for the elderly who may have numerous other aches and pains with which to deal.

All ages can benefit from spine stretches to help alleviate pressure on the sciatic nerve, but some positions are more accessible than others. Try the following moves that don't even require you to get out of bed if you don't want to.

Sphinx Pose

Spinx pose, also called a supported press-up, helps stretch out your spine and can alleviate discomfort due to a disc bulge or herniation.

How to: Lie on your abdomen with your legs stretched behind you. Place your elbows under your shoulders. Prop up onto your elbows with your forearms flat and parallel so your chest is elevated and your lower back has a nice curve. Allow your pubic bone and chest to feel heavy. Hold for five to 10 breaths before releasing.

Pelvic Tilts

Pelvic tilts help bring awareness to your spine and gently separate the vertebrae.

How to: Lie on your back and bend your knees so your feet are planted in front of your buttocks about hip-distance apart. Inhale and tilt your pubic bone upward as you press your lower back toward the floor. Hold for a count and release. Move mindfully — this is not an exercise to rush. Do five to 10 repetitions.

Read More: How to Heal a Sciatic Nerve

Relax with your knees pulled in toward your chest.
Relax with your knees pulled in toward your chest. Photo Credit fizkes/iStock/Getty Images

Knees to Chest

This stretch is particularly helpful in decompressing irregular vertebrae. If bringing both knees in together isn't working, hug in one knee at a time.

How to: Lie on your back and hug your knees into your chest. Wrap your forearms or hands around your shins. Keep your head neck and shoulders relaxed into the floor or bed. Breath for five to 10 counts and release. If you do one leg at a time, hold each knee in for the entire five to 10 breaths.

Figure Four

If your hip muscles and piriformis, a muscle deep in the buttocks, are causing compression on the sciatic nerve, this stretch offers relief.

How to: Lie on your back and bend both knees. Plant your feet in front of your buttocks. Cross your right ankle over the top of your left knee to create a figure four-like shape. Hold here if you feel the intense stretch in your hips. If you need a little more, thread your right hand between your thighs and your left hand outside your left thigh to grasp the underside of the left leg and gently pull the figure four toward you. Hold either variation for five to 10 breaths, release and repeat on the opposite side. Keep your head and neck down throughout the stretch to lengthen the spine.

Read More: Beginning Yoga for Seniors

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