Sciatica Exercises


We are often asked about sciatica exercises.  There are a number of exercises for sciatica, and they can be quite effective at treating the condition.

The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back area through the buttocks and down the backs of the legs.  When the sciatic nerve becomes inflamed and irritated, it results in sciatica.  Sciatica is a frequent cause of leg pain and lower back pain.  It is often caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve by a herniated disc, but can also be caused by other factors affecting the sciatic nerve. 


In severe cases, surgery may be necessary, but doctors and physical therapists recommend trying more conservative treatments first, including sciatica exercises.

Here are some exercises for sciatica that you can try.  Be sure to check with your doctor to make sure these exercises are right for you.

The first of these sciatica exercises stretches the piriformis muscle.  The piriformis muscle is a tiny muscle in the hip region.  It aids in rotating the hip joint.  The sciatic nerve is very close to the piriformis and sometimes runs through it.  Therefore, when the piriformis is tense, it causes irritation of the sciatic nerve.  That’s why stretching that muscle helps relieve sciatica pain.

Usually with sciatica, only one leg is affected.  That’s why this exercise is directed towards one leg only.  There is no need to repeat it on the other side.

Piriformis Stretch

  1. Sit on the floor with the unaffected leg stretched out directly in front of you.

  2. Grasp the ankle of the affected leg and pull it in toward your chest.

  3. Hold for a count of 5.

  4. Repeat this exercise 5 times.

The next two exercises for sciatica stretch your lower back, relieving pressure on the sciatic nerve in that area.

Back Extension

  1. Lie on the floor on your stomach.

  2. Support yourself on your elbows, so that you extend your back.

  3. Begin to slowly straighten your elbows, extending your back further.

  4. Continue to straighten your elbows until a gentle stretch is felt.

  5. Hold for 5 seconds.

  6. Repeat this exercise 5 times.

Cat Stretch

  1. Get down on your hands and knees.

  2. Arch your back up toward the ceiling (like a cat arching its back).

  3. Continue until a gentle stretch is felt.

  4. Hold for 5 seconds.

  5. Repeat this exercise 5 times.

The next sciatica exercises are hamstring stretches.  They will relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve in the thigh area.

Hamstring Stretch 1

  1. Sit on the floor with both legs out straight.

  2. Stretch your arms out and lean forward, bending at the waist, as far as possible while keeping your knees straight.

  3. Hold for 10 seconds.  Don’t bounce.

  4. Repeat this exercise 5 times.

Hamstring Stretch 2

  1. Lie on your back on the floor.

  2. Supporting your thigh behind the knee with your hands, slowly straighten the leg until a stretch is felt in the back of the thigh.

  3. Try to get the leg extended up at a 90 degree angle. 

  4. Hold the position initially for 10 seconds.  Gradually work up to 20, then 30 seconds.

  5. Repeat this exercise 5 times.

For the best results, do these sciatica exercises every day.  If your sciatic really bothers you, you might want to try doing them twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.  It shouldn’t take you very long to do them.  As you build up your strength, you can do the different exercises for sciatica more than five times each.  Aim for 15 – 20 repetitions.

If you have back pain, it’s a good idea to see a doctor before beginning an exercise program, including these exercises for sciatica. 



More than sciatica exercises on our benefits of exercise page

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