The Sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in your body and one of the major nerves your brain uses to communicate with your lower half. It leaves both sides of your lower spine, going through the deep tissues of your buttocks, down the back of your thighs and all the way to your feet. As you can imagine, issues with your Sciatic nerve can be serious and very painful. When spinal nerves in the lower back get compressed, typically due to inflammation or a misalignment, you feel Sciatic pain(Sciatica) as a result. Sciatica typically presents as sharp, shooting or shocking pains down the rear of the legs and sometimes into the feet. Burning, numbness and tingling sensations are also common Sciatica symptoms.
The sciatic nerve runs right through the piriformis, a tiny but powerful muscle deep in your glutes that helps laterally rotate your hips. When that muscle gets too tight it can impinge on the Sciatic nerve and be a major contributor to Sciatic pain. Sciatica pain is also triggered when vertebrae in the spine compress. The stretches in this blog are focused on stretching the piriformis and other muscles and tissues as well as opening up the vertebrae in the spine to relieve compression on the nerve. If you are finding yourself with lower back pain with shooting pains or burning/tingling sensations in your legs, try these stretches to get some relief.
The first three stretches are based on a single yoga pose called the pigeon pose, which is designed to open up the hips.
1: Reclining pigeon pose:
- While on the back, bring your right leg up to a right angle and grasp it with both hands behind the thigh, locking your fingers.
- Take your left leg and place your right ankle against the left knee. Hold the position for a moment before changing legs. This helps stretch the piriformis muscle.
- Repeat by switching sides and doing the same exercise with the other leg.
2: Sitting Pigeon Pose
- Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out straight in front of you. Then bend your right leg, putting your right ankle on top of the left knee.
- Lean forward and allow your upper body to lean toward your thigh. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and then switch sides. This stretches the glutes and lower back.
3: Forward Pigeon Pose
- Kneel on the floor on all fours.
- Pick up your right leg and move it forward so that your lower leg is on the ground, horizontal to the body. Your right foot should be in front of your right knee while your right knee stays to the right.
- Stretch the left leg out all the way behind you on the floor, with the top of the foot on the ground and toes pointing back.
- Shift your body weight gradually from your arms to your legs so that your legs are supporting your weight. Sit up straight with your hands on either side of your legs.
- Take a deep breath. While exhaling, lean your upper body forward over your lower leg. Support your weight with your arms as much as possible.
4: Knee to Opposite Shoulder
- Lie on your back with your legs extended outward and your feet flexed upward.
- Clasp your hands around your knee and gently pull your right leg across your body toward your left shoulder. Hold it there for 30 seconds and then push your knee so your leg returns to its starting position.
- Repeat for a total of 3 reps, and then switch legs. Remember to only pull your knee as far as it will comfortably go. You should feel a relieving stretch in your muscle, not pain.
5: Sitting Spinal Stretch
- Sit on the ground with your legs extended straight out with your feet flexed upward.
- Bend your right knee and place your foot flat on the floor on the outside of your opposite knee.
- Place your left elbow on the outside of your right knee to help you gently turn your body toward the right. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three times, then perform this stretch with your left leg bent and body turned to the left side.
6: Standing Hamstring Stretch
- Place your right foot on an elevated surface at or below your hip level. This could be a chair, ottoman, or step on a staircase. Flex your foot so your toes and leg are straight. If your knee tends to hyperextend, keep a slight bend in it.
- Bend your body forward slightly toward your foot. The further you go, the deeper the stretch. Do not push so far that you feel pain.
- Release the hip of your raised leg downward as opposed to it lifting up. If you need help easing your hip down, loop a yoga strap or long exercise band over your right thigh and under your left foot. Hold for at least 30 seconds, and then repeat on the other side.
Healthline.com – Source with pictures!