Medical professionals estimate that approximately 80 percent of the population will have back pain during their life. At any given time, the American Chiropractic Association estimates that 31 million Americans will experience low back pain. One of the most common causes of low back pain is sciatica.
Sciatica causes nerve pain that can be excruciating. When this type of pain hits, it can be difficult to stand, walk, and carry out daily activities. Sciatica is often caused by spinal stenosis, ruptured disc, or injury. Determining the cause of your lower back pain and sciatica is the first step toward relief.
Strength training along with flexibility exercises can help reduce the frequency of sciatica and relieve your back pain. When choosing exercises, opt for ones that externally rotate your hip. Let’s look at the five common exercises to provide you with some relief.
Lumbar Side Glide
The lumbar side glide is one of the best exercises used to relieve sciatica and back pain. This exercise is especially beneficial when your back pain is limited to one side.
• Stand with your feet about 12 to 18 inches from the wall. Your body should be perpendicular to the wall and the painful side should be facing away from the wall.
• Press your shoulder against the wall and bend your elbow, pressing it against your ribs with your hand extending forward.
• Place your other hand on the hip that is facing away from the wall.
• Press your hips toward the wall as you shift your hip upward toward your ribcage.
• Hold for five seconds and then release. As you release, allow your hips to relax and slide back into the starting position.
• As you perform each repetition, press your hips closer to the wall.
Lumbar side glide exercises are designed to release tension in your hips and lower back to relieve your sciatica pain. This exercise will shift the pain from running down your legs to in your lower back. When this occurs, you should move on to the next exercise to open up your hips and soothe your back pain.
Press Ups for Pain Relief
If you are experiencing acute low back pain, try this exercise. The press up exercise helps to restore the natural curve of your low back. As you press upward, it is important to remember to keep your back and hips relaxed as you press your upper body upward using your arms.
• Get a yoga mat or towel and place it on the floor. Then, get in a comfortable position on your stomach and allow your body to relax as you take deep cleansing breaths.
• Prop yourself up on your elbows for two to three minutes, inhaling and exhaling as you begin to feel the stretch.
• Lift your chest off the floor stretching as far up as you can, ensuring your hips remain on the floor.
• Hold for two to three minutes before gently releasing and returning to the starting position.
• Perform this stretch ten times to help release the tension and pain in your low back.
Standing Hamstring Stretch
If you have tightness and pain in the back of your leg and hamstring area, it can be relieved with a simple standing stretch.
• Stand up in a neutral position.
• Place your right leg in front of your body and flex your foot. Press the heel of your foot against the ground and point your toes upward.
• Slightly bend your left leg and sit back into the exercise.
• Place your hands on your right leg above your knee and lean forward.
• Hold this stretch for thirty seconds.
• Repeat the exercise four times.
The Reclining Pigeon Pose
A common pose used in yoga is the pigeon pose. This pose opens up your hips for an amazing stretch. If you are new to yoga, you should do this in a reclining position. Once you can do this pose in the reclining position without experiencing any pain, try to do the sitting pigeon pose and then move on to the forward pigeon pose.
• Lie on your back on a thick towel or yoga mat. Extend your right leg at a right angle. Reach through your legs and clasp your hands together behind your thigh.
• Lift your left leg up and place your right ankle on top of your left knee.
• Gently pull your leg toward you ensuring that your hips are rotated outward and your low back is firmly pressed into the floor.
• Hold this stretch for ten seconds before gently releasing your leg.
• Switch your legs and complete the pose again.
The reclining pigeon pose stretches your piriformis muscle which can become inflamed and press against your sciatic nerve, causing sciatica pain.
The Lumbar Flexion Stretch
The lumbar flexion stretch is a simple exercise; however, it is very effective at relieving pain. The lumbar flexion stretch opens up the holes on each side of the spine, which provides more room for your nerves.
• Get your yoga mat. Then, lie on your back with your bent knees placed perpendicular to the floor, about shoulder-width apart.
• Lift your knees toward your chest
• Place both hands behind your knees.
• Gently pull your knees toward your chest, remembering to breathe.
• Hold for a count of five and then slowly release and return to the starting position.
• Do 10 repetitions to fully release your tense muscle and relieve your sciatica pain.
The first line of defense against back pain is gentle exercises that open up the hips and stretch your low back, hips, and hamstrings. When you begin doing these exercises, it is important to remember that your flexibility may not be the same as another person’s flexibility.
If you experience any pain during these stretches, stop immediately, and seek out the assistance of a pain doctor at Rose Wellness Center for Integrative Medicine who has experience helping individuals with sciatica and low back pain.