These three simple yet effective exercises may assist in reducing discomfort or promote centralizing radiating symptoms caused by sciatica.

The term sciatica comes from the diagnosis involving compression on the sciatic nerve either at the peripheral nerve root or by the piriformis muscle. Sciatica is a diagnosis that can be extremely painful with radiating symptoms originating in the low back and traveling down the side of the leg all the way into the foot. The primary goal while treating or managing sciatica is “centralization”. Centralization refers to when the symptoms decrease the distance radiating and begin occurring close to the low back or buttock area.

Piriformis muscle location

Please discontinue these exercises if pain is provoked or worsened while performing them. If this is the case, contact your Physical Therapist to get checked out. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohAY81T_Fy4

Single & Double Knee to Chest 3×4 30 sec hold each 

The first exercise performed is a combination of two different exercises performed back to back. The sciatic nerve, as mentioned, runs from the four different nerve roots located from L4 to S3. That said, stretching the gluteal muscles are one of the primary targets when treating sciatica. By performing a single knee to chest (SKC) and double knee to chest (DKC) stretch and holding each for 30 seconds you physiologically have an effect on the tissue tension. Decreasing gluteal tightness may provide decreased compression on the sciatic nerve peripherally as it travels deep underneath this group of muscles. 

Sciatic Nerve is shown in yellow

Pirifomis stretching 3×30 second 

The second exercise is also a stretch of a muscle in which the sciatic nerve travels under. This muscle is the piriformis muscle. The piriformis muscle is a relatively small muscle but plays a vital role in walking and when tight may compress the sciatic nerve resulting in radiating pain down the leg of involvement. People who sit for long periods of time often experience issues with this muscle. Compression of the sciatic nerve can be relieved by stretching the piriformis and promoting decreased tightness and improved laxity. In turn, this will help alleviate pain associated with sciatica.

Sciatic nerve glides 5×5 second hold 

The final exercise that I want to show you is sciatic nerve glides. This exercise focuses on something slightly different than the previous two exercises. Rather than stretching muscle tissue, this exercise stretches or flosses the nerve itself. One point to note with this exercise versus the previous two is that if flossing the sciatic nerve provides more relief, it may indicate that the compression of the nerve is coming from the nerve root itself. 


I hope you enjoyed the exercises and blog posts provided and were able to assist in decreasing sciatic related pain. Remember that if pain is provoked during any of these exercises to discontinue and contact your physical therapist to be evaluated.  You can Request A Free Pain & Movement Evaluation with Robbins Rehabilitation East any time.

-Devin McLaughlin, PTA


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