Back pain is among the leading causes of disability in the United States. Low back pain is particularly on the rise—over 80 percent of Americans will experience a stint of low back pain at some point, according to a 2009 University of North Carolina study.
While medicinal treatment options like anti-inflammatory drugs and steroid injections can provide temporary relief of painful symptoms, they don't have to be your go-to option. In fact, there are a number of easy self-care approaches that involve no medicine at all.
When it comes to improving sciatica, stretching is one of your greatest allies. Not surprisingly, a number of studies have found a link between yoga and sciatica relief. It's little wonder so many patients are skipping the pharmacy and opting to stretch away their sciatica instead. Here are some effective stretches for taking pressure off the sciatic nerve.
Variations of Pigeon Pose
You don't have to be a longtime yogi to master pigeon pose. Holding this cleansing position is said to stimulate the internal organs while stretching vital muscles for sciatica relief. There's more than one variation, so start gradually, experimenting until you find what feels best for you.
Healthline offers up some fantastic step-by-step visual aids for getting into position. You'll see that you can enter the pose while laying on your back, sitting upright or extending forward (somewhat similar to a pushup). The first is generally considered the best starting point for newbies. Being able to hold it for 15 to 30 seconds without pain is an indicator that you might be ready to move on to the seated position, then to the forward expression.
Bound Ankle Pose
The folks over at Yoga Journal spotlight tons of beneficial stretching exercises, but some are a bit advanced. Bound ankle pose isn't one of them. This gentle posture opens the hips while stretching the inner thighs, groins and knees. If you feel comfortable, this stretch can be held for anywhere from one to five minutes.
This soothing stretch is a tonic for sciatica pain, strengthening the spine and relieving stress and fatigue. When done correctly, it's a safe back-bending pose that's best held for 15 to 30 seconds.
Stretching the Knee to the Opposite Shoulder
Any stretch that requires you to stretch your knee to the opposite shoulder can help alleviate sciatic nerve pressure. This can be done any number of ways. Healthline spotlights two variations; one performed while laying down, the other while sitting and rotating.
What are your favorite stretches for sciatica? Whichever ones you try, just be sure to listen to your body. If stretching aggravates it more, it's probably wise to back off and check in with your doctor. The professional team at Envista Neck and Back can point you in the right direction.