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  • Writer's pictureDr. Trent Whittaker

How to manage Sciatica Pain: A Guide with Rehab Exercises

Discover how incorporating targeted exercises into your routine can offer significant relief from sciatic pain, enhancing your mobility and quality of life.



How to manage Sciatica Pain: A guide with Rehab Exercises


In our latest post, we discussed the 5 conditions that can cause Sciatica. Now, we'd like to share some rehabilitation exercises with you that can help manage this condition.

 

Before we dive into the management strategies, it's essential to understand that sciatica is a symptom, not a diagnosis. Therefore, if you haven't read our previous post yet, we suggest that you take a look at it to understand the common causes leading to this condition. It's called "5 Conditions Leading to Sciatica: Understanding Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Modalities." Once you've read it, please let us know your thoughts!


In This Article:



The Importance of Exercise for Sciatic Pain Relief


Regular exercise is key in the management and relief of sciatic pain. It helps by strengthening the spinal column and the supporting muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Strengthening these areas can improve your posture, provide better support for your back, and reduce the pressure on the sciatic nerve, effectively alleviating pain.


Before we dive into the exercise guide to manage sciatica pain, it's essential to heed some safety tips, such as consulting with a healthcare provider to ensure the exercises chosen will not exacerbate your condition.


We categorized the exercises based on the common conditions we talked about in our blog post about Sciatica (you can read it here). Although the exercises are pretty similar, each condition requires a specific type of exercise. But don't worry, we've got you covered, and we'll explain everything down below.



6 Effective Exercises to Alleviate Sciatic Pain Caused by Disc Herniation


Focus on Core strengthening exercises is the key to reducing pressure on the sciatic nerve, here are 6 exercises you can do at home:


Range of Motion Exercises
  • Cat cow: Start on hands and knees, arch and round the spine (pain-free ranges).


Cat Cow Stretch
Cat Cow Stretch

  • McKenzie Protocol: Lie on your stomach, push up with your arms to lift your upper body, hold for 2 seconds, and repeat.


McKenzie Protocol
McKenzie Protocol

Stretching Exercises:
  • Hamstring: Lie on your back near a doorway. Place one leg up against the wall and extend the other through the doorway.

  • Hip flexors: Kneel and lean forward for a stretch in the front of the thigh.

 

Doorway Hamstrings and Hip Flexors Stretching
Doorway Hamstrings and Hip Flexors Stretching

Strengthening Exercises
  • Glute bridges: Lie on your back with your knees bent and legs hip-width apart. Raise your hips up into a bridge. Control the movement back down to the starting position

  • Quadruped: On hands and knees, keep posture, and raise arms and legs alternately, and diagonally.


Glute Bridges and Quadruped Strengthening Exercises
Glute Bridges and Quadruped Exercises


6 Effective Exercises to Alleviate Sciatic Pain Caused by Spinal Stenosis


For Spinal Stenosis, Flexion-based exercises help increase the space in the spinal canal, alleviating nerve pressure. 


Stretching Exercises
  • Double Knee to Chest Stretch: Pull both knees towards your chest.

  • Knee to Opposite Chest Stretch: Draw one knee up and over towards the opposite shoulder.

  • Hip Flexor Stretch: Kneel and lean forward for a stretch in the front of the thigh. (Check the image above)

 

Double Knee to Chest and Knee to Opposite Chest Stretches
Double Knee to Chest and Knee to Opposite Chest Stretches

Strengthening Exercises
  • Abdominal Bracing: Lie on your back, tighten your stomach, and feel for muscle activation.

  • Clam Shell: Lift the top knee with feet together while lying on your side.


Abdominal Bracing and Clam Shell Strengthening Exercises
Abdominal Bracing and Clam Shell Exercises

  • Sit to Stand: Use hands for support to stand from a chair, then sit down.


Sit to Stand Exercise
Sit to Stand Exercise


6 Effective Exercises to Alleviate Sciatic Pain Caused by Degenerative Disc Disease


With Degenerative Disc Disease, Stability exercises focusing on supporting the spine are the key to managing this condition.


Stretching Exercises
  • Low Trunk Rotations: Lie on your back, and gently rotate your knees side-to-side.

  • Piriformis Stretch: Sit and lean forward with crossed legs for a stretch.


Low Trunk Rotations and Seated Piriformis Stretch
Low Trunk Rotations and Seated Piriformis Stretch

Strengthening Exercises
  • Dead Bug: Lie on your back, knees bent at 90 degrees, arms reaching up. Flatten your lower back to the floor. Alternate lowering one arm overhead and the opposite leg straightening out. Return to start and switch sides

  • Glute Kickbacks: From hands and knees, extend one leg back, keeping it level with your bottom. 


Dead Bug and Glute Kickbacks Exercises
Dead Bug and Glute Kickbacks Exercises

  • Abdominal Brace: Tighten abdominals with back on the floor, repeat.

  • Plank: Lie on your stomach, prop on your forearms, lift your hips in line with your shoulders, and hold for 15-60 seconds.


Plank: Lie on your stomach, prop on your forearms, lift your hips in line with your shoulders, and hold for 15-60 seconds.
Abdominal Brace and Plank Exercises


6 Effective Exercises to Alleviate Sciatic Pain Caused by Piriformis Syndrome

Stretching the piriformis muscle and strengthening the surrounding gluteal muscles can help reduce sciatic nerve irritation.


Stretching Exercises
  • Supine Cross-Body Piriformis Stretch: Pull one knee across the body to feel a stretch in the buttock.

  • Knee-to-Chest Piriformis Stretch: Lie on your back with your legs straight. Pull one knee to your chest, interlock fingers behind the thigh. Hold the stretch, feeling it in your buttock. Keep the other leg straight on the ground

 

Piriformis: Supine Cross-Body and Knee-to-Chest Stretches
Piriformis: Supine Cross-Body and Knee-to-Chest Stretches

Strengthening Exercises
  • Abdominal Brace: Tighten abdominals with back on the floor, repeat.

  • Bilateral Glute Bridge: Lift pelvis with knees bent, lower, and repeat.


Abdominal Brace and Bilateral Glute Bridge Exercises
Abdominal Brace and Bilateral Glute Bridge Exercises

  • Straight Leg Raise: Lie on your back. Lift one straight leg while lying, and hold for 5 seconds.

  • Side-lying Hip Abduction: Lie on the non-affected side with the bottom knee bent and the top leg straight. Raise the top leg towards the ceiling without rolling the hips. Keep the knee straight throughout


Straight Leg Raise and Side-lying Hip Abduction Exercises
Straight Leg Raise and Side-lying Hip Abduction Exercises

So, you might be thinking about which exercise is best for you, right? Well, we can't really suggest anything specific without doing a full assessment of your condition. It's always smart to chat with a healthcare professional to get the right diagnosis and treatment, along with the best rehab exercises for you.



Integrating Exercises into Your Daily Routine


Incorporating these exercises into your daily routine can be highly beneficial. Establishing a consistent schedule ensures that you regularly perform these exercises, leading to better outcomes in managing sciatica. The long-term benefits include improved flexibility, strength, and reduced pain, contributing to a higher quality of life.



Additional Lifestyle Changes to Support Sciatica Relief


Beyond exercises, making certain lifestyle changes can further support sciatica relief. Diet and nutrition play a crucial role in overall health and can impact inflammation and pain levels. Additionally, maintaining proper posture and ergonomics, especially if you spend long hours sitting, can prevent additional strain on your back and sciatic nerve.

 


Conclusion


Managing sciatica effectively involves a comprehensive approach that includes targeted exercises, lifestyle adjustments, and, when necessary, professional intervention. By incorporating the exercises outlined in this guide into your daily routine, you can alleviate sciatic pain, enhance your mobility, and improve your quality of life. Remember, consistency is key, and your efforts will be rewarded with greater comfort and less pain.


At TT Chiro RM, we offer care emphasizing a holistic approach that includes advice, treatment, rehabilitation, as well as preventative strategies for various underlying conditions such as lumbar disc with radiculopathy, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, and piriformis syndrome.


For personalized advice and treatment, consulting with a professional chiropractor is recommended. Through tailored strategies and continuous care, sciatica can be managed effectively, allowing individuals to lead a pain-free life.

 

Written by: Dr. Trent Whittaker (B Chiro Sci, M Chiro)


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