Most people have about a forty percent chance of experiencing sciatica pain or lower back pain at some point in their lives.
Sciatica pain which starts at the base of the spine and runs down through the legs doesn’t always manifest as lower back pain. Numbness, tingling, and weakness in your legs and knees can also be signs of sciatica trouble.
The symptoms of sciatica pain can be diverse. They include: pain anywhere from the lower back down through the calf muscles; fatigue, numbness, and loss of feeling in the legs or feet; a tingling or “pins and needles” sensation in the legs or feet; weakness in the knees; an inability to flex your ankles; and reduced reflex response in your Achilles tendon and knee.
Causes of Sciatica Pain (Lower Back pain)
Sciatic nerve pain can be caused by a number of factors. Compressed nerves, muscle or disc herniation, osteoarthritis, and lumbar canal stenosis are frequent causes of sciatic pain(1).
Any of the symptoms of sciatic nerve trouble can be serious, and you should see a doctor if you’re experiencing sciatica pain, numbness, or weakness in your lower back and/or legs. However, oftentimes there’s little that doctors can do for patients with sciatica pain; regular stretching and rest are the two most frequently prescribed remedies.
Stretching To Relieve Sciatic Nerve or Lower Back Pain
If you’re having trouble with your sciatica, there are steps you can take at home to help address the symptoms. These stretches can be especially helpful if the pain is caused by the piriformis – they’re designed to help stretch your lower back, relieving tension in the muscles of the lower back.
Stretching has been widely associated with the relief of sciatica pain(2); however, patients should be careful not to overdo it, as there are cases of overly enthusiastic yoga participants causing more damage to their sciatic nerves(3).
Here are some simple, easy stretches that can be performed in moderation for the relief of sciatic nerve pain:
1. The Standing Back Twist
Stand with one foot positioned on a chair, and place the outside of your opposite hand on your raised knee. Placing your other hand on your hip, rotate your upper body while keeping your hips facing forward. This position can be held for thirty seconds at a time.
2. The Knee Raise
Lie on your back and draw one knee up towards your chest, keeping the other leg straight on the floor. Keeping your shoulders on the floor, push down with your knee while pulling up with your hands.
3. The Two Knee Twist and The Single Knee Twist
These are two variations on the same stretch. Both are performed lying flat on your back, with your arms spread so that your body forms a T shape. For the single knee twist, raise one knee at a 90 degree angle and flex your bent leg to one side. For the two knee twist, perform the same stretch but with both legs bent at a 90 degree angle.
4. The Cat Pose
This super easy yoga pose is great for beginners. Start by kneeling with your hands positioned below your shoulders. Slowly arch your back upwards, with your head facing down, for a count of 5 deep breaths, then relax. Repeat for 3 full cycles.
5. The Child Pose
This pose is good for cooling off once you’ve performed the previous four stretches. Kneel on the floor, settling back onto your heels while leaving your hands on the floor in front of you. Hold the pose for as long as you like, but be careful! Too long can be rough on your knees.