3 Moves that Help Relieve Sciatica Pain

3 Moves that Help Relieve Sciatica Pain

What exactly is sciatica? You have probably heard about it from a friend or family member at least once in your lifetime. Sciatica is a common painful condition that is characterized by pain radiating down the pathway of your sciatic nerve into your buttock and back of your thigh. The pain can sometimes even travel to the back of your calf and into your feet and toes. 

Sciatic nerve pain can be very debilitating, and just getting off the couch can bring some to their knees. In fact, 10-40% of people will experience this condition during their lifetimes. (Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507908/)

Your sciatic nerves are made up of 5 nerve roots that come off of each side of the spinal cord in your lower back. Each of these nerve roots run through holes in our vertebrae, called foramina, before they merge together to form the nerve. Each nerve then travels down the back of your hips and legs and end at the bottom of your toes. Sciatic pain occurs whenever this nerve becomes pinched or irritated in some way along its pathway.

The most common causes of sciatica nerve pain include:

  • Spinal stenosis – narrowing of the foraminae in the spine canal
  • Injured spinal disc
  • Deep gluteal pain syndrome
  • Sciatic nerve mobility deficits
Depending on the cause, there are particular exercises you can do to help relieve your sciatica. This article will explain 3 of the most effective moves.

When dealing with sciatica it is incredibly important to determine the source of the pain. If you can identify why your sciatice nerve is irritated then exercise can be very effective in reducing pain. However, if incorrectly identified, exercise can worsen your symptoms. For example, exercises for sciatica caused by a disc injury can become severely irritated if it’s completed by somebody who has sciatcia from spinal stenosis. This is why it is very important to see a physiotherapist or chiropractor to help you diagnose the cause of the pain. 

Depending on your presentation, your therapist might prescribe you one of the three following exercises to provide sciatica pain relief. Before attempting any of these, consult with your physiotherapist or chiropractor to determine which is the most suitable for you.

Knee To Chest

The Knee to Chest exercise is generally suitable for someone with spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis typically occurs in 50-80 year olds as arthritis develops in the low back. When this occurs, the foramina (the holes in the lower back where the sciatic nerve roots travel through) narrow. This can cause irritation of the nerve roots, leading to sciatica. People with spinal stenosis generally complain of pain during walking and prolonged standing. 

The Knee to Chest exercise involves completing a spinal flexion movement, which is when you curl your spine forward. When you perform this motion it creates more space in the foramina of the spine which can take pressure away from the nerve roots and reduce pain.

To complete, lie flat on your back. Take one of your legs and put it at a 90 degree angle (your thigh should be perpendicular with the ceiling).

While your leg is at 90 degrees take your hand and place it behind your thigh. Then slowly pull your knee toward your chest until you feel a good stretch. Only stretch to your comfort level. You should feel a good stretch in your back and glutes (buttocks). Hold this position for about 10 seconds then release. Perform this 5-10 times on each side.

If this is comfortable you can try with both legs at the same time

Sloppy Push-ups

The next stretch is generally more suitable if you have a disc injury. The discs are pieces of tissue that sit in between your vertebrae and act as shock absorbers when you are upright and move your back. People with disc injuries are usually younger (20-50 year olds) and usually complain of pain when flexing the spine like you would when bending over or when sitting for a prolonged time. If a lumbar disc is injured, it can irritate one of the sciatic nerve roots, leading to sciatica symptoms. 

The sloppy push-up is a very common exercise prescribed for people with a disc injury. It involves moving the lumbar spine into an extension position (bending backwards). It works to reduce strain on the disc and the sciatic nerve roots, and can be very helpful for sciatica pain. 

To perform, lay on your front. Position your arms so that your forearms are resting on the surface, with your hands at the level of your face. Push through your forearms to gently bend your low back backwards. Your chest should come off the ground. Hold for 1-3 seconds and then lower. Repeat 5-10 times. 

Piriformis Stretch

Another common cause of sciatic pain is deep gluteal pain syndrome (DGS). DGS occurs when the small muscles in the back of your hip tighten and compress or irritate the sciatic nerve. This condition causes pain, numbness and a tingling sensation that travels from your hip down your leg and into your foot. The piriformis muscle is commonly involved in this condition. It is a muscle that runs between from your tailbone to the outside of your thigh and helps to rotate the hip. Stretching out this muscle can be quite helpful if you have DGS.

To complete this stretch, lie down with both knees bent. Take your right leg and place the outside of your right foot on top of the area just above your left knee. Now take your hands and reach and grab the front of your left knee and pull towards you within your comfort level and hold for 10 seconds. Then release and do it again. This will stretch your piriformis and take pressure off of your sciatica nerve. Try completing on both sides.

Simple exercises that can help you with sciatica pain relief courtesy of BeActive Physiotherapy and Wellness (Read the caption)

How sitting causing sciatica and how to stop it

Research shows that sitting too much can contribute to or cause sciatica. Here’s why: When you sit for prolonged periods of time it can irritate the discs or joints of your lower back. This irritation can impact the sciatic nerve roots and cause sciatica symptoms.  

So make sure to set a timer for every 30 minutes to get up and stand for a couple of minutes. You can also walk around or stretch during this time.

Also try maintaining a good home-base sitting position. A home-base posture is a position that you can use as your main sitting posture. This position should include:

1. Keeping your feet flat on the ground and legs at 90 degrees. 

2. Placing the top of your monitor at eye level to prevent your neck from rounding. 

3. Having good support for your forearms while typing

4.Placing a towel or lumbar roll on your lower back in the chair to keep your back in a more comfortable position.

While it is important to set up a home-base position, you should also be moving into and out of different sitting postures throughout the day. This will help reduce back pain and sciatica.

If these stretches only give you temporary relief or none at all, then a Chiropractor can help. They can gently adjust your spine to reduce pain and take pressure off of your sciatic nerve. You can use the search box on this page to find a Chiropractor near you!

Sciatic Pain courtesy Vitality Physiotherapy and Wellness Centre (Read the caption)


This appointment is your opportunity to tell us what hurts and discover whether physiotherapy or chiropractic care is a good fit for you! During this session, you will talk with a physiotherapist or chiropractor on a phone call (or online) and create the right care plan specifically for your pain. There is no obligation on this session is to find out whether physiotherapy or chiropractic care can help you getting back to doing the things you love in life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Rest in the short-term may be helpful, but in the long-run staying active will help you reduce your symptoms. A physiotherapist or chiropractor can help determine which exercises are most helpful for you.

Depending on your condition, yes walking can release hormones like endorphins that reduce pain.  

For acute sciatica pain 1-2 weeks. However, more serious presentations can take 6-12 weeks. It depends on the person and severity of the condition.

About Taylor Sipos

Taylor is a physiotherapist at The Orthopaedic Therapy Clinic located in Toronto, Ontario. He treats patients with various musculoskeletal conditions using patient education, exercise therapy, manual therapy and acupuncture. His treatment philosophy involves giving his patient’s the means to self-manage their injuries. He does this through reassurance, education and health promotion. Taylor uses the same principles as a patient educator at Pain Hero. He aims to provide you with high-quality, easy to understand information to teach you about your condition and how to improve it.

Medical Disclaimer:

The information presented in this blog post is for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, treatment or a diagnosis, consult with a medical professional such as one suggested on this website. The Clinic Accelerator Inc. and the author of this page are not liable for the associated risks of using or acting upon the information contained in this article.

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