Stretches for Sciatica

Two nerves emerge from the bottom of the lumbar spine, and three more energy from the holes in the sacrum to combine into the sciatic nerve. This nerve is the longest in the body, and its pathway takes it from deep in the buttocks all the way down to the feet. When this nerve is fully healthy, we are able to move our bodies without restriction, and we feel healthy and comfortable. Due to irritation of compression of the nerve, we may experience pain in our legs, loss of sensation, burning, electricity, and tingling. These types of symptoms may be exacerbated by certain activities and movements, or it may be persistent throughout the day and night.

In some cases, the sciatic nerve may be affected by degenerative changes or inflammation close to the openings in the sacrum and spine, where the spinal nerves emerge. In other cases, the sciatic nerve may be affected by strain or injury to the muscles close to its pathway, such as the Piriformis muscle in the buttocks. Muscle strain and muscle spasms are treatable, through some combination of exercise, physical therapy, and stretches. Physical conditioning is important because core muscles that are strong and flexible improve the posture of the spine and the position of the pelvis. Both of these factors will decrease the pressure that is placed on the spinal nerves. Let's take a look at some stretches for sciatica that may decrease the pressure on the part of the sciatic nerve that has become constricted.

Hamstring Stretching: The sciatic nerve runs from the buttocks to the back of the thigh. Tightness in your hamstrings may increase stress on the lower back and cause tightness in other muscles near the sciatic nerve. Fortunately, this problem is a fairly easy fix, and it won't require the use of any fancy products - just a flat surface to lie on.

The hamstrings are a group of three muscles on the back of the thigh that run from the pelvis down to the knee. The hamstrings together consist of three muscles - the biceps femoris), semimembranosus, and semitendinosus. These muscles may be made more flexible by stretches that elongate the muscles. These muscles are involved with the flexion of the knee and the extension of the hip.

With this stretch, lie flat on your back and bring one leg up by putting both hands on the back of the upper thigh. With the knee slightly bent, gently pull your thigh towards your chest until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold this position for 10-30 seconds. When first beginning your stretching program, you should hold the stretch for about 10 seconds. Eventually, you should increase this hold time to 30 seconds.

Remember not to hold your breath at any point during this routine. Keep breathing.

Come in and out of this stretch gradually. Don't rock the leg back and forth. Avoid bouncing, which could trigger a muscle spasm.

Put enough time aside so that you may do this stretch two times per day. Try to warm up the muscles if you can by doing some walking on a treadmill or outside. This stretch should not only be done before exercising, especially for someone suffering from persistent sciatic pain.

Piriformis Muscle Stretches: The piriformis muscle originates in the side of the sacrum and greater sciatic notch of the pelvis, and inserts into the greater trochanter of the femur. The flexion and extension of the muscle allows for the internal and external rotation of the femur. Certain lifestyles of people, due to job hazards such as sitting for long periods of time, or standing in place, may cause repetitive use injuries on this muscle. The repetitive use of this muscle may cause it to shorten or go into spasm. This may cause pressure on the sciatic nerve below it.

Stretches to bring this muscle out of spasm and make it more flexible may be done in several ways. All of these stretches involve one leg being straight while the leg with the muscle being stretched is being brought towards the patient's chest and across the body.

Supine Piriformis Stretches: Lie flat on your back. With one leg straight to the ground, bring the other leg up and close to your body. Put one hand behind the outside of the knee and one hand across the outside of the ankle. Trying to lead with the ankle, pull the knee towards the opposite shoulder until a comfortable stretch is felt. Build up to 30 second holds for both sides of the body.