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Stretches For Sciatica That Your Back Will Thank You For

If you've ever experienced the shooting pain and discomfort of sciatica, you know just how debilitating it can be.

Sciatica, often misunderstood as a condition, is not a diagnosis itself but rather a symptom of an underlying problem. In this blog we take a look at what sciatica is, what treatment is recommended by the experts, the research behind the treatments, and what type of stretches can help bring you the relief you are looking for. Let's take a look!

LivaFortis looks at the role of sciatica in low back pain.

What Exactly Is Sciatica?

This specific type of nerve pain occurs when the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back down the back of each leg, becomes irritated or compressed.

One common cause of sciatic nerve irritation is Deep Gluteal Syndrome (DGS), where the piriformis muscle (a thick, flat muscle and the most superficial muscle among the deep gluteal muscles) can presses down on the sciatic nerve.

Understandably, this pressure on the sciatic nerve can be excruciatingly painful and can shoot all the way up your back leading to lower back pain. Fortunately there are some tried and tested stretches and exercises that are specifically designed to target these nerves and muscles and they can bring enormous relief when done correctly. Let's take a look!

Healthcare professionals can help find the cause of sciatica and manage it

Understanding Sciatica and Deep Gluteal Syndrome (DGS)

Before we delve into the specific stretches and exercises for sciatica, let's understand a bit more about sciatica and something known as DGS - deep gluteal syndrome.

Sciatica is typically characterized by pain that radiates or moves along the path of the sciatic nerve. This pain often runs from the lower back through the hips and down each leg.

Sciatica can be caused by various conditions, one of which is Deep Gluteal Syndrome. In DGS, the piriformis muscle, located deep in the buttock, can press down on the sciatic nerve, leading to pain, tingling, and numbness along the back of the leg.

One study used a test called FAIR to test sciatica.

The FAIR Test: Identifying Sciatic Nerve Irritation

A study aimed at understanding the effects of stretching and compression exercises on patients with low back pain (LBP) and DGS offers us some insights into the type of treatments that can help with sciatica.

The FAIR (Flexion Adduction Internal Rotation) test is a provocation test used to identify sciatic nerve irritation caused by the piriformis muscle. A provocation test is basically where they do something to you and then wait to see what happens.

In this particular clinical trial, forty-five participants were divided into three groups: a group who got a stretching exercise (figure 4 leg stretch), another group who received a compression exercise (exercise and foam rolling), and a control group.

One group in the FAIR trial used compression exercises like foam rolling for sciatica relief.

Stretching vs. Compression Exercises

Participants in the compression exercise (CE) group received self-compression exercises, while those in the stretching exercise (SE) group performed self-stretching exercises. The study included three sets of two-minute exercises with two-minute rest intervals. The results were very interesting and helpful.

The Findings: What the Study Revealed

Contrary to expectations, neither stretching nor compression exercises changes the surface electromyography (sEMG) of the gastrocnemius and tibialis anterior muscles.

What that means, in simpler terms, is that these exercises did not directly affect the electrical activity of these muscles or the muscle activation - an indicator of how the muscles were used. However, the study did show significant improvements in pain and disability across all three groups.

stretching can help with sciatica.

The Power of Stretching: Improving Disability

Something in the study that was particularly interesting was that patients who performed stretching exercises experienced improved disability compared to those in the compression exercise group.

While both groups saw decreases in pain and disability, the stretching exercises showed a greater impact on improving the ability to perform daily activities without discomfort.

what are the best stretching exercises for low back pain?

Recommended Stretches for Sciatica Relief

So, now that we can see how important stretching is for low back prevention how do we know exactly which ones to do? Based on the study's findings and expert recommendations, here are some stretches for sciatica relief that your back will thank you for:

  1. Piriformis Stretch:

  • Sit on a chair and cross the affected leg over the opposite knee.

  • Gently lean forward while keeping your back straight until you feel a stretch in the buttocks.

  • Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other side. 2. Hamstring Stretch:

  • Lie on your back with one leg extended.

  • Raise the other leg, keeping it straight, and gently pull it towards you with a towel or belt.

  • Hold for 15-30 seconds and switch legs. 3. Seated Spinal Twist:

  • Sit on the floor with your legs extended.

  • Bend one knee and place the foot over the opposite leg.

  • Twist your torso towards the bent knee, placing the opposite elbow on the outside of the knee.

  • Hold for 15-30 seconds and switch sides. 4. Child's Pose:

  • Start on your hands and knees.

  • Sit back on your heels, reaching your arms forward and lowering your forehead to the floor.

  • Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute, focusing on deep breathing.

digital pt can help guide you through sciatica exercises for back pain relief.


Ultimately sciatica can be a challenging condition, but incorporating stretching exercises into your routine can make a significant difference. While the study we looked at in this article found that neither stretching nor compression exercises directly impacted muscle activity, the improvements in pain and disability that the patients experienced speak volumes.

So, the next time you feel the twinge of sciatic nerve pain, remember these stretches. Your back will thank you for the relief, and with consistency and proper form, you may find yourself moving more freely and comfortably.

As always, consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise regimen, especially if you have underlying health conditions. With these stretches for sciatica relief, you can take proactive steps towards a healthier, happier back.

Stretch on, and here's to a life with less sciatic pain!


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