Sciatica Stretches

Sciatica stretches may include various exercises to loosen muscles in the buttock area that can compress and irritate the sciatic nerve (and/or closely mimic the symptoms of it), they may be used to decrease  bulging of discs  in the lumbar spine, or they may be used for the purpose of relieving soft tissue adhesions around the sciatic  nerve or its component nerves.  All of these approaches can be helpful to varying degrees, but using some stretches can make sciatica symptoms worse rather than better if the stretch is done incorrectly, or when the nerve is too inflamed.

Stretching of the muscles that can produce sciatica symptoms is most often directed at the piriformis.  This muscle in the lower buttock has different orientations relative to the sciatic nerve in different people.  The sciatic nerve may run over the muscle, under the muscle, or even go through the middle of it.  In cases where the nerve runs under or through the piriformis, abnormal tightness of the muscle can compress the sciatic nerve and cause pain and other symptoms.

There are a few variations of stretching for the piriformis muscle.  In all cases, the mechanics of the stretch require flexion and inward rotation of the hip joint.  The basic idea is to bend the leg, pulling the knee towards the chest and across towards the opposite shoulder. 

Another group of sciatica stretches are commonly referred to as McKenzie exercises, named after physical therapist, Robin McKenzie.  The most often used of these exercises involve extension or backward bending of the lumbar spine.  Spinal extension is used with the intention of squeezing bulging disc material forward and away from nerve branches that form the sciatic nerve.

Finally, there are actual sciatic nerve stretches.  That is, the purpose is to actually place tension on the sciatic nerve to eliminate various soft tissue adhesions and allow the nerve to be more mobile.  This approach is sometimes called “nerve flossing”.  The technique involves stretching the symptomatic leg, alternately bending and straightening it.  While this can be helpful in long-standing cases of sciatica, it can cause considerable irritation of the sciatic nerve and may make symptoms worse.  For this reason, this type of stretching for the sciatic nerve should really only be done by those experienced with its use and/or under the supervision of a healh care provider. 

All of the types of stretching exercises for sciatica symptoms can be very helpful.  In fact, for many sufferers with this type of pain, their symptoms can be effectively alleviated and prevented with the appropriate use of sciatica stretches.

12 Comments

  • Henry Down

    Reply Reply August 15, 2012

    Sir

    Can a spur in the heel cause pain in the thigh. this pain is only apparent when walking for a short period IE 5 to 10 minutes.

    Please respond

    Regards

    Henry

    • Dr. George Best

      Reply Reply August 15, 2012

      A heel spur is unlikely to directly cause thigh pain; however, if you are walking differently due to the heel spur, it could cause the muscles in the thigh to overwork and produce tightness and pain.

      Dr. Best

  • Tim

    Reply Reply November 19, 2012

    Hey Dr. Best

    I’ve had Sciatica since June of this year… Had an Xray (not an MRI) done and the dr said it was Sciatica. But upon further research of my own, I know I have true Sciatica. I did stretch test to see if was either that or Piriformis (spell check) and it is True Sciatica. The Dr. perscribed Methocarbamol for spasm and Flexeril but my fiance had Cyclobenzapr instead which is the generic version of Flexiril. Also I’ve used muscle rubs (Precise, IcyHot & etc.) thinking those would help too. They definitely eased the pain about 20-30% kinda like a “Take The Edge Off” type deal. Now I’ve just recently came across your youtube videos and this site and dowloaded the Ebook. Very informitive. I’ve done the McKenzie Methods, but when I get up out the floor, the pain heavily increases and runs from my buttock down to my leg instead just at my calf and makes it hard to deal with and walk… Any idea what I’m doing wrong or what could possibly be causing it??

    Thanks
    ~Tim

    • Dr. George Best

      Reply Reply November 19, 2012

      If the calf pain is going away and the pain is only in the buttock and thigh, that’s actually a good sign. With the McKenzie exercise, centralization -pain furthest from the spine (in your case right now, the calf) improving or leaving, even if symptoms closer to the spine increase – is a sign of decreasing nerve compression. As you continue, the symptoms higher up should gradually improve.

      If the calf pain is also intensifying when you stand up after doing the exercise, I suspect that there may be a joint dysfunction issue in the sacroiliac and/or lumbar spine that is getting irritated by the McKenzie exercise. In this case, I recommend you stop doing the exercise and consult with a chiropractor or osteopath to get the joints checked out. If things are not improving much within a week or two, I’d definitely recommend getting an MRI to evaluate things further.

      If you have further questions, let me know.

      Good luck!

      Dr. Best

  • Linda Shackleton

    Reply Reply August 1, 2013

    Dear Dr. Best, I am a 64 yr. old woman who has suffered from lumber spine pain for many years.
    About 6wks. ago my doctor sent me for x-rays, which revealed much DDD in my lumbar spine and
    a lot of bone spurring. About 4 wks. ago I developed some new symptoms: terrible pain in my right
    groin, in my right thigh, pinching inside the top of my right leg, and pinching in my right buttock. In my city, I can’t get in for an MRI until Feb.19, 2014. In the meantime, I have been doing your
    stretching exercises and they have helped my pain a lot, thankfully. But I am still getting a lot of
    pain in my right groin, which makes walking very painful. My doctor says that I don’t have an
    inguinal hernia and that I don’t have any cysts or tumours in my right groin, but I still have agonizing
    pain in my right groin. Do you think I have sciatica problems Dr. Best and what is causing the pain
    in my groin? Keep up your excellent work, helping people with sciatica! Linda.

    • Dr. George Best

      Reply Reply August 2, 2013

      Hello Linda,

      Groin pain is not usually associated with true sciatica, but occasionally the piriformis muscle will refer pain to that area, so gentle stretching and massage of the piriformis may help. There are also a number of other potential causes for groin pain. It could be due to nerve compression higher up in the lumbar spine than what typically causes sciatica, in which case continued use of the McKenzie exercise may eventually start to ease the groin pain. Problems in the sacroiliac joint will also sometimes refer symptoms to the groin area, in which case the pelvic repositioning method in the member’s area may help, or you may benefit from chiropractic treatment (I’d suggest starting with a low-force method such as Activator, Arthrostim, ProAdjuster, or Sacro-Occipital Technique). Finally, arthritis or even fractures in the hip can cause groin pain without any other symptoms. Usually X-rays of the low back will at least partially reveal things in the hip joints, but it might be a good idea to get an actual hip X-ray study done as well.

      Hopefully this will be helpful for you.

      Good luck!

      Dr. Best

  • Tmengyew

    Reply Reply February 24, 2014

    Hi Dr
    when i lay on my bed i don’t feel any pain but when i wake up in the morning, I have a lower back pain(9 month ago) most of the time at the left side of my back (i am a left and right side sleeper for 41 yrs) . Within 1 hrs after i wake up and start to move around ,the pain gone. It come back when i sit too long or walk too long. Could you advice me if this excercise will help?
    Can i do jogging (i like to run upslope) ? what is my problem ? Thanks

    • Dr. George Best

      Reply Reply February 24, 2014

      Hello,

      The exercises may help to some degree, but anytime someone is waking up with pain that goes away after moving around, it’s a good bet that the bed is at least part of the problem. Of course, the best corrective measure in this case is to get a new bed, but if that’s not something you can do right now, the next best thing is to beef up the support from your existing bed by placing a piece of plywood between the mattress and box spring and/or placing a sheet of memory foam or high density foam rubber on top of your mattress. You probably have some underlying degenerative arthritis in your low back since you also get pain with prolonged sitting or walking, so the exercises and natural anti-inflammatory measures like the herb turmeric, fish oil, and just about anything that has anti-inflammatory effects should help. Jogging is not a good idea with degenerative spinal conditions as the impact tends to cause increased inflammation of the arthritic joints and will accelerate degeneration in any discs that are problematic. Walking and other low-impact exercises are usually beneficial though.

      Good luck!

      Dr. Best

  • Graciela Sit

    Reply Reply June 23, 2014

    Dr George Best,
    Hello
    I forget my password. Can you sent me again. I have tried many time, also I have sent my Email but I have not received response. I also would like you tell where I can look out the Mackenzie exercise.
    Thanks

    • Dr. George Best

      Reply Reply June 23, 2014

      I resent your login information. To be sure that you receive site updates in the future, be sure that you add info@sciaticaselfcare to your email approved senders / address book (so emails from the site do not get blocked by your spam filter).

      You may login with your email address and the password sciatica at the page.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “look out the McKenzie exercise”, but the complete instructions are available in the members area.

      Dr.Best

  • Jo Zurbrugg

    Reply Reply October 18, 2014

    I am having difficulty signing into your website with the information that was sent to my email which led me to sweber.com/followed by multiple letters and numbers. Any other suggestions because I would like to have access to the PT home exercises for sciatica.
    Thank you,
    Jo Zurbrugg

    • Dr. George Best

      Reply Reply October 18, 2014

      Hello,

      I’m not sure what you mean by having difficulty signing in, because there’s not anything to sign in to unless you’ve joined the paid member’s area (and I don’t see any record of that for your email). If you’re concerned about clicking on the confirmation link with the aweber url, aweber is simply a third party email management system I use (you can Google aweber if you’re still unsure). Since aweber requires strict anti-spam compliance, that confirmation link simply affirms your permission to send you information. Confirmation will allow you to get emails with additional tips, but if you prefer not to receive those, you may directly access the second video and the free ebook (there is a download link for the ebook on the right sidebar) at: http://www.sciaticatreatmentathome.com/sciatica-treatment-exercises/.

      Dr. Best

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