Can sciatica be cured with exercise?

Running from the base of the spine to the feet, the sciatic nerve is the body’s largest. If it becomes pinched or compressed due to a sudden injury or a degenerative condition, it can cause a number of symptoms known collectively as sciatica. These may include a sharp, stabbing pain at the site of the compression, as well as burning sensations, tingling and numbness that usually radiate down one side of the body. Muscle weakness is another commonly reported symptom of sciatica, as is pain that worsens with standing or sitting but diminishes when walking or lying down.

There are a number of conservative sciatica treatment options that many patients find effective in managing their chronic pain. In many cases, these will involve both stretching and strength training exercises. If the muscles of the lower back and abdomen are strong and flexible, they can do a better job keeping the lower spine stabilized, thus accelerating the healing process and minimizing the possibility of further injury.

Some frequently recommended stretches include:

  • Piriformis stretches. While lying on your back, place your feet on the floor with your knees bent. Bring your right ankle over your left knee and pull your left thigh toward your chest. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
  • Seated hip stretches. Sit on the floor and cross your right leg over your straightened left leg. While keeping your back straight, hug your right knee to your chest with your left arm. Try to hold the stretch for 60 seconds, then repeat with the other leg.
  • Sitting spinal stretch. While sitting on the ground, cross your right leg over your straightened left leg and plant your foot flat on the ground next to the outside of your left knee. Place your left elbow on the outside of your right knee and gently pivot to the right. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat two more times, then switch sides and repeat.

Strengthening exercises may include:

  • Hook-lying march. While lying on the floor with your knees bent and arms at your sides, tighten the stomach muscles and alternately raise your legs 3 to 4 inches off the floor. Try to perform this exercise for 30 seconds. Rest 30 seconds and complete two more sets.
  • Bridging. Start on your back with your knees bent, then slowly raise your buttocks from the floor. Hold the bridge for eight to 10 seconds, then slowly lower your bottom back to the floor. As your strength builds, aim to complete two sets of 10 bridges.

Always consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine. It’s also important to remember that while exercising can help you manage your symptoms, it will not “cure” the underlying cause of your sciatica.

At Laser Spine Institute, our surgeons have performed more than 75,000 minimally invasive outpatient procedures that have helped patients find lasting relief from a variety of spine conditions, including sciatica caused by bone spurs, degenerative disc disease and more. If you’ve been diagnosed with any of these conditions and are still experiencing chronic pain despite months of conservative treatments, you may be a candidate for our minimally invasive surgeries. Contact a member of our team today to learn how you can obtain a free MRI review* to begin the screening process.

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