Sciatica is a literal pain in the butt. Telltale signs that you're suffering from compression on your sciatic nerve include tingling, pins and needles or just straight up achy pain that concentrates in a cheek or runs down your leg, sometimes into your foot.
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The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. It originates in the lower spine, runs through your buttocks into the back of the thigh, finally ending in your foot.
A herniated disc or tight piriformis muscle can cause the compression that irritates the sciatic nerve, resulting in pain. Pain can range from mild to debilitating. Because sciatica is a symptom, rather than a condition in itself, it's important to seek medical help to resolve the underlying reason for compression. Before trying exercises to relieve sciatic nerve pain, clear them with your doctor to make sure you're not aggravating a disc condition.
When you're cleared to relieve pain with simple exercises at home, try this sampling of easy-to-do moves.
Cobra is a yoga posture that strengthens the supporting muscles of the spine and can relieve sciatic pain caused by a herniated lumbar disc.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie flat on your abdomen with your legs outstretched behind you. Place your hands underneath the creases of your shoulders. Inhale and lift your face and the front of the shoulders and chest. Keep the hands light — the effort comes from your back, not your arms. Hold for three to four full breaths. Exhale and lower your upper body back down. Repeat six to 10 times.
2. Child's Pose
If your sciatica is due to spinal stenosis, an abnormal narrowing of the bone channel around the spinal nerves — including the sciatic nerves. This restorative yoga posture can help alleviate immediate pain caused by the compression of the sciatic nerve.
HOW TO DO IT: Get onto all-fours on an exercise mat. Sit your buttocks back over you heels and let your head come near the mat. Hold for a breath or two and rise back to all fours. Repeat four to eight times.
3. Knee to Chest
Sometimes, a simple stretch is all it takes to give you some relief from sciatic pain. This position is appropriate, regardless of the cause of your sciatica.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back and pull your knees as deeply into the chest as possible. Wrap your hands or forearms around your shins as you squeeze the legs gently in to your torso. Keep your head resting in the floor. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat if desired.
4. Hook-Lying March
Sciatic nerve pain caused by degenerative disc disease benefits from this marching exercise that helps stabilize the position of the pelvis.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Rest your arms alongside your torso. Engage your abdomen as you lift your right leg so the shin is parallel to the floor. Slowly lower it down and repeat with the left. Move intentionally and slowly, not rushing the action. Repeat the alternating lifts for about 30 seconds. Do several sets.
5. Piriformis stretch
Sometimes, it's a tight piriformis muscle that compresses the sciatic nerve and causes your pain. This muscle may grow tight from continuous, repetitive exercise, such as running. Strengthening exercises, such as clam shells, help create a more balanced hip and pelvic arrangement, so you reduce future issues with the piriformis compressing the sciatic nerve. But, to temporarily alleviate pain, try a reclined figure four stretch.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Lift your right leg and place your right ankle across your left knee. Hold here, or if you want more sensation, lift the left leg and hug behind the thigh to draw the legs closer to the torso. Hold for five to t10 breaths. Repeat several times if desired. Perform on both sides, even though it's usually only one side that's most affected.