How to Stretch Your Sciatic Nerve

Sciatica is a symptom, often of a pinched nerve, rather than a condition, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Sometimes, it can feel like a bad cramp, or it may be an excruciating pain shooting down the leg that makes any position--standing or sitting--nearly impossible. People experience this pain because the sciatic nerve runs from the lower back, through the buttocks and down through the legs. While various treatments exist to help relieve the pain sciatica causes, doctors may first try physical therapy exercises. It should be noted that anyone trying these exercises should first consult their physician.

People doing back extensions on mats. (Image: DragonImages/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 1

Perform the piriformis stretch. For this exercise, either lie on your back with both knees bent or stretch your unaffected leg in front of you. Crossing the affected leg over the knee of the other, take hold of the unaffected leg and pull it toward the chest, holding until the stretch is felt in the hips. Hold for a count of five to 20 seconds, depending on the patients level of tolerance and comfort. Release. Repeat on both sides five times, but since sciatica usually affects only one leg, repeating on one side is usually sufficient, according to QuickCare.org.

Step 2

Relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve with back extensions. Lie on your stomach on the floor, supporting yourself on your elbows. This allows you to extend your back. To properly execute, extend farther, which is done by slowly straightening your elbows. Continue doing this until a slight stretch is felt, and then hold the stretch for five seconds. Lower down slowly, and repeat this exercise five times.

Step 3

Try hamstring stretches to relieve pressure on the nerve in the thigh. Start on the floor in a lying position with both knees bent. Place hands behind the knee with the problem, straightening it slowly until a stretch is felt. QuickCare.org suggests trying to bend the knee to a 90-degree angle, but for some, this may not be possible. Instead, work each day until this goal is met.

Step 4

Act like a cat. Just like the back extension, the cat stretch relieves pressure on the sciatic nerve in the lower back. Start on your hands and knees. Arch your back, and continue until you feel a stretch. Continue holding for five seconds before releasing, and repeat five times.

Step 5

Stretch on the bed. The hip flexor stretch is performed on the edge of the bed, as you hold your knees into your chest. Keeping one knee bent, slowly lower the other leg, with the stretch felt in the top of the hip and thigh. Back.com suggests holding this for a period of 20 seconds before relaxing and repeating five times on each side.

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