Sciatica is a very common complaint seen by Physical Therapists. Sciatica is defined as pain that starts in your low back and travels down the back of your leg, sometime down to your foot. The causes and sources of sciatica pain can vary from person to person and therefore, should be thoroughly evaluated by a physical therapist. However, below are some simple stretches that you can perform to ease some of the pain you may be experiencing. If you do not see any changes in your sciatica pain after trying these stretches, you will likely benefit from a one-on-one examination by a physical therapist, as there are many more interventions that may help ease your pain further.
When performing the “Hamstring Stretch”, you can use a long towel, a sheet, a belt, or a dog leash. Hook one end around the ball of your foot and hold the other with your hands. Keep the opposite leg flat on the ground while performing this stretch. Gently lift your leg off the ground until you feel a gentle stretch behind your thigh and knee. It is important that you keep your knee straight for the entire stretch. If you are unable to keep you knee straight, simply lower your leg to a point where you can keep your knee straight.
To add more of a stretch, you can perform the hamstring stretch while moving your ankle up and down, like you are pushing on a gas pedal. This should be performed slowly and with good control. You will feel more of a stretch as your pull your toes back toward you and less of a stretch as you point your toes to the ceiling. Move your foot back. If your pain is worse after this, stop this exercise. If the pain is better, you can repeat. This should also be a gentle stretch, you should have NO pain with either of these exercises.
When performing the “Piriformis Stretch”, you want to start lying on your back with with your knees bent and your feet flat. There are two variations to this stretch, perform the stretch that you feel works best for you. With this stretch, you only want to stretch until you feel a gentle stretch in your buttock, with NO pain.