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Sciatic Nerve Pain Relief Stretches

Brett McDonough
December 3, 2021

An estimated 1% to 5% of all adults in the U.S. experience sciatica symptoms every year. If you're one of them, you know how sciatic nerve pain can interfere with your daily activities. Fortunately, the discomfort can often be addressed with the proper care. Read on to learn how sciatica exercises and chiropractic care for sciatica could benefit you.

What Is Sciatica?

Sciatica is pain caused by the sciatic nerve, which starts in your lower back and travels down your legs. Often, sciatica pain occurs when the nerve becomes pinched or compressed due to:

  • Age-related changes to the spine
  • Extra pressure on the legs due to obesity
  • Sitting for an extended time period
  • Lifting heavy loads
  • Over-exertion during exercise

Nerve damage due to diabetes can also cause sciatica. When this occurs, sciatica treatment must include interventions to keep blood glucose levels under better control.

Symptoms of Sciatica

The most common symptom of sciatica is pain that radiates from the lower back into the buttocks and down the back of your leg. You may perceive it as a mild ache, an excruciating shooting pain, or a burning sensation. In some cases, the pain may get worse when you cough or sneeze. Typically, the pain is located only on one side. Additionally, sciatica can cause numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness in the leg or foot.

How Sciatica Nerve Stretches Can Help

Often, stretches for sciatica are recommended to alleviate discomfort. The goal of stretches is to increase physical activity and reduce some of the pressure on the nerve. This, in turn, can lessen pain. Keep in mind that sciatica stretches must be performed regularly to provide benefits. You may need to practice them for weeks before you notice an improvement.

Three Simple Sciatica Stretches

Try these three stretches for sciatica relief:

1. Seated knee pull

  • Sit down on a chair with both feet on the floor.
  • Lift the leg on the side where you experience sciatica.
  • Get into a cross-legged position by placing your ankle on the opposite knee.
  • Clutch your bent knee with both hands.
  • Draw your knee toward your chest and hold for 10 to 15 seconds while maintaining good posture.
  • Release and repeat a few times.

2. Reclined knee pull

  • Lie down flat on your back.
  • Draw the knee of the affected leg into your chest.
  • Wrap your hands around your knee and hold for 10 to 15 seconds.
  • Gently pull your knee across the body toward the opposite side. Hold for another 10 to 15 seconds.
  • Release and repeat a few times.

3. Counter-tension reclined knee pull

  • Lie down flat on your back on the floor.
  • Bend the unaffected knee and put your foot flat on the floor.
  • Bend the affected leg and place your ankle on your knee.
  • Place your hands on either side of the thigh of the unaffected leg.
  • Draw your leg into your chest and hold for 10 to 15 seconds.
  • Release and repeat a few times.

If you lack flexibility, you can wrap a towel around your knee or thigh to achieve the stretch. Over time, you may find that you become more flexible and can perform the stretches without modification.

Other Ways to Get Sciatica Pain Relief

In addition to performing sciatica exercises, you can try the following interventions to reduce sciatica nerve pain:

  • Apply ice or hot packs for 20 minutes several times per day.
  • Keep a journal to identify triggers for discomfort and make lifestyle changes to avoid them.
  • Get up and walk around the room every 30 minutes when you're sitting.
  • Lose weight if you are obese.

Can a Chiropractor Help with Sciatica?

Many people benefit from seeing a chiropractor for sciatica. As experts in the care of spine and body alignment, chiropractors have the knowledge needed to determine the likely cause of your sciatica. They can administer treatments to ease your symptoms. Plus, a chiropractor can recommend additional stretches and lifestyle changes.

Chiropractic Treatment for Sciatica

Chiropractors can treat sciatica several ways, including:

  • Adjustments. Chiropractic adjustment for sciatica involves repositioning the spine to bring it into proper alignment. This can help reduce pressure and may provide lasting pain relief.
  • Massage therapy. Through massage techniques, chiropractors can release tension and encourage muscle relaxation to reduce sciatica pain.
  • Ultrasound. Using special equipment, a chiropractor can focus gentle sound waves onto the effective area to alleviate inflammation and support the natural healing process.
  • TENS therapy. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation or TENS therapy involves stimulating nerves with a device that produces low-frequency electrical energy. It has been shown to relax muscles and encourage the release of endorphins, the body's natural pain killers.
  • Spinal decompression. When pressure from discs in your spine contributes to sciatica, a chiropractor can decompress them, creating more space between the vertebrae.
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