A herniated disk in the lower back generally causes sciatica. The disk then pinches the sciatic nerve, causing pain. Pain is mostly felt from the back and radiates down the sciatic nerve in the hip and buttocks, on to the back of the leg. This can be a sharp pain or a general numbness from the leg or foot. Luckily, there are some exercises you can do at home to soothe aching muscles and alleviate symptoms of sciatica. Be sure to consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.
Walking is a helpful exercise for anyone, but especially those with sciatic nerve pain. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, bed rest is no longer recommended and may actually delay the recovery process. Walking can help increase blood circulation to the site of the pain, reducing sciatic nerve pain. If you have access to a swimming pool, water walking reduces strain on your feet and legs.
Sitting Hamstring Stretch
To do the sitting hamstring stretch, sit toward the front edge of a hefty, solid chair without wheels. Stretch your legs out in front of you, keeping your knees straight, toes pointed toward the ceiling, with your heels rested against the floor. Be sure your head is in line with your spine, and extend forward, reaching for your toes until you feel the stretch in the buttocks and hamstring or the back of your legs. Hold the stretch for 45 seconds and repeat 5 times in a row.
Partial sit-ups help strengthen your core and abdominal muscles, resulting in a strong lower back. Lie down on your back, keep your knees bent and press your lower back to the floor. Clasp your hands behind your head with your head in line with your spine, then raise your shoulders three to four inches from the floor while your core muscles are flexed. Pause at the top of this movement, exhale and return to the floor. Repeat this exercise 10 times for three entire sets. Rest 90 seconds between each set.
The pelvic tilt is a great exercise to perform after partial sit-ups, since you use the same position for both. Pelvic tilts soothe strained lower back muscles while strengthening the lower abdominal region. Lie face up with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Squeeze your buttocks, flex the abdomen, and pull your hips up toward the ceiling, approximately three to four inches off the floor. Hold this position for a second then relax to the starting position. Repeat 10 times, for three sets, resting for 90 seconds between each set.
Lower Back Stretch
Lie down in the sit up position with your lower back pressed to the floor. Bring one leg up toward your chest while the other rests. Pull your leg gently until you feel a stretch in your lower back and hold position for 30 seconds. Let this leg rest, pull the other leg up, and repeat the exercise.
Keep all stretches slow and controlled and do not bounce or jerk during any motion. Continue to breathe throughout each stretch, as it is easy to hold your breath. You should feel slight tension during a stretch, but stop immediately if you feel pain.
Fritz Benson is a freelance writer specializing in health & wellness. Those with sciatica symptoms looking for assistance should consider the sciatica treatments offered by Gulf Coast Spine Care.
Image credit goes to Dr Todd Cremeans.