Lower back pain is a very common complaint; thirty-one million Americans suffer from it. According to the Global Burden of Disease 2010, it’s the leading cause of disability world-wide. (1)
Pain ranges from a dull ache to shooting pains through the lower extremities. Regardless of the cause of the pain, the risk can be drastically reduced and relieved through proper sciatica stretches.
Why Sciatica Stretches Are So Important
Healthcare practitioners and kinetic researchers agree that regular sciatica stretches help to prevent and improve symptoms of lower back pain. (2)
Stretching not only readies muscles for movement, it strengthens and improves flexibility to enable full range of motion. Stretching your back is beneficial for alleviating lower back pain regardless of age and current physical condition, including for the obese and elderly:
“…pain catastrophizing is significantly alleviated in the TOTRX [total body resistance exercise intervention] group that performs whole body resistance training, including lumbar extension exercise…exercise alleviates pain intensity and promotes functional improvement within 8 weeks…Strengthening exercises also impede the possibility of disability in elderly people with LBP [lower back pain].” (3)
While your first inclination in dealing with back pain is to lie in bed and pop painkillers, the vast landscape of research indicates that’s about the worst thing you can do.
The agreement among scientific studies is that exercise (including stretching) is the best way to prevent and alleviate lower back pain. (4)
What Causes Sciatica Pain?
The sciatic nerve is the longest in the body, running from the lower spine to the feet.
Sciatica is the condition in which the sciatic nerve is constricted, causing (sometimes excruciating) pain. Stretching the muscles surrounding the nerve loosens constriction, relieving pain and regaining mobility.
Go to next page to see detailed instructions and videos for each of these SIX stretches:
6 Lower Back Stretches for Sciatica Relief
It’s a good idea to warm up your muscles for at least five minutes before stretching to reduce risk of injury and improve mobility. A brisk walk, jumping jacks, rebounding, an easy bike ride—whatever you prefer to get blood flowing to your muscles.
It can’t be stressed enough that everything in the body is connected to everything else.
Strength and flexibility of the entire body takes stress from off of the lower back for lifting and ease of movement. Stretches that target the lower back also involve those of the abdomen and legs. Strong and flexible abdominal, leg, and lower back muscles improve posture, so important for preventing back pain.
Do these six stretches as a series.
Go to next Page for exercise No. 1 – Camel Pose
1. Camel Pose
Muscles stretched: rectus abdominus and external obliques
- Kneel on the floor with your lower legs at hip width and straight behind you, your feet flexed (a yoga mat or thick towel under your knees will make it easier).
- Place your hands on the bottoms of your feet and while pushing your shins to the floor, raising your hips up and forward. If you can’t comfortably reach the bottoms of your feet, place your toes on the floor, lifting the heels up and place your hands on your heels.
- Keep your head up, your face toward the ceiling.
- Stretch as far as is comfortable without compressing the lower back. Hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds.
2. Wide Forward Fold
Muscles stretched: adductors.
This and the frog pose below open the hips and stretch the inner thighs, increasing mobility and preventing lower back strain.
- Sit on the floor (on yoga mat or thick towel) with your legs out to either side to form a 90° angle. Knees should be parallel to the ceiling.
- Bend knees slightly and keep your spine straight. Stretch your feet with toes toward the ceiling and press through your heels.
- Reach for your feet with both hands as you slowly straighten your legs and lean forward. If you can’t reach your feet, place your hands as far forward on your legs as you comfortably can. Bend at the hips and maintain a long torso.
- When you feel the stretch in the backs of your legs, hold the position for 1 minute. Round up to the starting position.