Sciatica is the tingling, numbness, or searing pain that shoots from your spine to your legs, following the sciatic nerve. This big nerve goes from your lower back through the butt and down the back of each legs, stretching to the thigh, calf, and toes.
But if you experience sciatica I don’t need to tell you about it. You’ve felt it. And if you’ve felt it, you know that you’ll do just about anything to relieve yourself. Although sciatica is problematic and painful, there are some stretches you can do to help ease the pain.
Without Even Getting Out Of Bed
The following stretching routines were developed by Jennifer Howe, MPT, CMPT, and teaching associate for the University of Washington’s physical therapy department. Sciatica is a symptom of a larger problem, so each set of stretches pinpoints one of these problems.
Herniated Disc: A bulge in the cushioning between the bones in your spinal column. If you’ve got a herniated disc, your sciatic nerve gets inflamed and easily irritated, and you’ve got to create some space between the bulging discs in your spine to relieve the pressure.
Bone Degeneration: Irregularities in your vertebrae. These get worse with time, and can end up pinching the sciatic nerve, leading to burning pain of sciatica. Some stretches can help to create more space between the vertebrae, alleviating the pressure on the nerve.
Tight Hip Muscles: Tightness or pain in your hips can lead to sciatica. Without regular stretching this problem worsens with time. Characterized by a creaky feeling when walking or getting up from a prone position, tight hip muscles are often overlooked but can lead to serious pain.
If you’re suffering from all three you have my sympathy. If you’re unsure what is triggering your sciatica, try all of Howe’s routines and see which helps the most. It won’t take very long and you’re very much encouraged to do these in bed. At least one of these stretches will help you get out of bed.
Start on your stomach with your elbows positioned directly below your shoulders and your forearms flat on the bed, parallel to one another. Lift your chest and extend through the spine from your tailbone to the top of your neck. Allow your back to arch naturally. Hold for 30 seconds, breathing deeply. Do 2 more reps then move on to the Press Up Extension.
Press up Extension
Lie face down with your hands flat, next to your shoulders. Press your palms into the bed to lift your upper body, keeping your hips and pelvis stuck to the bed. Extend the stretch through your spine from your neck to your tailbone. Let your back arch. Hold for 10 seconds then slowly return to starting position. Do 10 reps for 1 set. Do 3 sets.
IMPORTANT: Stop lifting your chest if you feel any pressure in your lower back. If you feel no change from doing these stretches it’s likely that you do not have a herniated disc. Move on to the next routine.
Knees to Chest
Lie on your back and slowly hug your knees to your chest, allowing your low back to round. Hold for 30 seconds for 1 rep. If this stretch lessens the pain in your legs, do 3 reps and then move on to the next stretch. If not, bone degeneration is probably not your problem.
Posterior Pelvic Tilt
Lie face up on the bed with your knees bent and feet flat on the bed. Draw abdominals in to flatten lower back into the bed. Hold for 5 seconds, then return to start position. Do 10 reps.
Tight hip muscles?
Knee to Opposite Shoulder
Lie on your back with legs extended, feet flexed. Lift your right leg, clasp your hands behind your knee, and gently pull your right knee across your body toward your left shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds. Do 3 reps. Switch legs and repeat.
Figure 4 Stretch
Lie on your back with bent knees, feet flat on bed. Cross your right ankle over your left knee (in the shape of a 4). Grasp your hands behind your left knee and gently pull your legs toward chest as you press right knee away from your chest. Hold for 30 seconds. Do 3 reps. Switch legs and repeat.
Now You Can Get Out Of Bed
If any of these stretches causes more pain stop immediately. The pain associated with sciatica can be so severe that you don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. Hopefully these “before you get out of bed” stretches will help relieve some of the pain.
And you’ll be on your way in no time. Up and at ‘em.