Suffering from sciatic nerve pain can affect your whole life as it limits your ability to be active. Among the most common causes for sciatic nerve pain are piriformis syndrome, herniated discs, spinal stenosis and isthmic spondylolisthesis, which create pressure on the sciatic nerve sending a sharp, dull or burning pain down the entire length of the nerve or isolated to one area. Numbness, tingling, weakness or cramping also may be felt from the lower back to the feet, primarily on one side of the body. Stretching the muscles around this nerve can help relieve the pressure, thereby reducing the pain.
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Piriformis Syndrome Stretches
Piriformis syndrome is often mistaken for sciatica, but the source of it is different than sciatica as it does not involve a disc causing impingement or irritation of the nerve root. The Piriformis muscle tightens, irritating the sciatic nerve and creating pain, numbness, weakness or burning from the buttocks to the foot. Sitting upright in a chair with your feet on the floor, raise the affected leg toward your body, turning it so your lower leg from your knee to ankle are parallel with your body. Gently pull that leg toward your body to feel a stretch in the affected buttocks.
Herniated Disc Stretches
Extension exercises provide the best results when you are suffering from sciatic nerve pain due to a herniated disc. Lie face down on your stomach. Very slowly raise your upper body onto your elbows, keeping your hips against the floor. Hold for five seconds in the beginning, gradually increasing to 30 second repetitions. If you are unable to lie flat, you may modify this exercise by slowly leaning backward from a standing position.
Spinal Stenosis Stretches
According to physical therapist Ron S. Miller on Spine-health.com, spinal stenosis-induced sciatica pain generally takes the opposite approach of herniated disc pain. Flexion exercises, where the upper body bends forward, are best in alleviating this type of pain, although extension exercises also may be used depending on the specific injury. To perform back flexion, lie on your back and slowly pull your knees into your chest. Hold for 30 seconds. Try to repeat four to six times.
Isthmic Spondylolisthesis Stretches
If your lumber spine 5, or L5, nerve root is affected from isthmic spondylolisthesis leading to sciatic nerve pain, a combination of flexion and stabilization stretches are best. A pelvic tilt exercise is often recommended in treating this type of sciatica since it uses back flexion followed by stabilization of the flexed area. Lie flat on your back, and then bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Contract your abdominals to keep your back flat as you raise your hips off the floor. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds and perform about 10 repetitions.