Saturday, August 20, 2011

4 Sciatica Stretching Exercises

The longest nerve in your body, the sciatic nerve runs from your spinal chord, through your pelvis and down the back of each leg. While sciatic pain often originates at the spine due to an inflamed intervertebral disc, it can also be caused by pressure against the nerve from tight muscles, a condition known as nerve entrapment syndrome. In physically active people, a small muscle called the piriformis, located deep in the buttocks, is often the culprit, trapping the sciatic nerve against the pelvic bone. Exercises that stretch tight muscles and balance muscle tension at the hip joint can relieve sciatic nerve pressure and pain.
Hamstring Strech
A hamstring stretch is recommended by to loosen the hamstring muscles. Tightness or tension in the muscles of the hamstring increases stress to the lower back and may result in compression of sciatic nerve and sciatic nerve spasms. Hamstring stretches help to alleviate the pressure on the sciatic nerve and reduce the nerve spasm. Begin by lying on your back with both legs extended in front of you. Place one hand or a towel behind the knee of your affected leg. Slowly extend your leg straight up so that the sole of your feet faces the ceiling. Continue this extension until you feel a stretch in the back of the thigh. Hold this position for 10 seconds and gradually increase it to 30 seconds. Repeat this stretch twice daily and remember to breathe while performing this stretch.
The swimming physical therapy exercise helps to stretch the lower back and legs simultaneously. To perform, lie on your stomach with your arms extended overhead and your face looking at the floor. Lift your right arm 2 to 3 in. off the floor, then lift your straight left leg off the floor. Hold this position for one to two counts, then lower this arm and leg to the floor. While you are lowering these, lift your right leg and your left arm off the floor, similar to a position you'd be in if you were swimming. Repeat this exercise 20 times.
Supine Piriformis Stretch #1
Lie flat on your back on the floor and raise the leg on the side opposite that which is affected. Place the affected leg so that is crossed over the bent knee and crosses the knee at the ankle on the affected leg. Grasp the bent leg just behind the knee and slowly pull toward the chest, so that a stretch is felt in the affected leg.
Supine Piriformis Stretch #2
Start on all fours with the foot across and under the body so that the leg with the pain is on the outside of the body. Extend the non-painful leg straight back. Keep the affected leg in the original position, move the hips back toward the floor and put all the weight on the forearms. You should feel a deep stretch on the affected leg. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Return to starting position and repeat for a total of three stretches.