Can stretching regularly treat sciatica pain in the lower back?

Stretching can be helpful for the treatment of sciatica in the lower back, particularly when the underlying cause of the discomfort is piriformis syndrome. A small muscle located deep within the buttocks, the piriformis is situated in close proximity to the sciatic nerve. For this reason, if the piriformis becomes inflamed or spasms, it can easily irritate or compress the sciatic nerve. This can potentially set off a range of symptoms, including pain, numbness, tingling and burning sensations that run from the base of the spine through the buttocks and down the back of one or both legs.

Stretches for the treatment of sciatica associated with piriformis syndrome

If you’ve been diagnosed with piriformis syndrome that is causing sciatica, your physician may recommend a targeted stretching program to help relieve your painful symptoms. Some stretches that can be beneficial for the treatment of sciatica include:

  • Supine piriformis stretches. Lie on your back with your knees bent and both feet planted firmly on the ground. Rest your right ankle over your left knee, then pull your left thigh toward your chest. Hold the stretch for 5 to 30 seconds, then release and repeat on the opposite side.
  • Floor bridges. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet placed flat on the ground, shoulder-width apart. Draw in your navel and contract your gluteal muscles (buttocks). Slowly push through your heels and lift your pelvis off the floor until your knees, hips and shoulders are aligned. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly lower your pelvis back down to the floor.
  • Hamstring stretches. Place two chairs facing each other. Sit on one chair, raise one leg and place your heel on the other chair. Lean forward, bending at your hips until you feel a gentle stretch along the back of your thigh. Hold the stretch for 5 to 30 seconds, release and repeat using your other leg.

Surgical treatment of sciatica

In addition to piriformis syndrome, sciatica can also be caused by a degenerative spine condition, such as a herniated disc or bone spur that is compressing the sciatic nerve. While stretching and other conservative treatments can potentially improve the resulting symptoms, some patients consider surgery to address the sciatica directly at its source. For information on the surgical treatment of sciatica, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our surgeons perform minimally invasive spine surgery that is a safer and effective alternative to highly invasive open back surgery.^ We can tell you about our outpatient procedures and provide a no-cost MRI review* help determine if you are a candidate.

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