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Physical Therapy Exercises for Sciatica

Updated on July 28, 2015

Signs and symptoms of Sciatica. Basic physical therapy exercises to reduce the symptoms of Sciatica.

Sciatica is normally referred as sharp pain down from your buttocks to the lower limb. Individuals normally referred this kind of pain as “shooting pain”. Sciatica is a painful condition and is experienced by individuals every time they tries to get up from supine to a sitting position and also during standing and sitting for long duration. Continuous standing with back extended (normally a tummy-protruding position) causes the symptoms to get worse. Sciatica can be due to impingement in the spine or due to muscular impingement such as piriformis syndrome. Your piriformis muscle is located in your buttocks and sometimes the sciatic nerve is caught between the piriformis muscle which is normally experienced as shooting pain. The other symptoms normally present along with shooting pain symptoms are:

-numbness and tingling radiating from the buttocks to the lower limb.

-Constant pain in the buttocks or in the lower back

-pain that gets better while walking and lying down and gets worse in standing and sitting for longer duration.

- pain that is normally expressed as sharp, shooting, stabbing in nature

-sometimes it is also experienced in the form of pins-and-needles, pin prick sensations and multiple ants crawling on the skin surface.

Straight leg raise exercise

Simple and basic exercises to relieve sciatica

1) Straight leg raise exercises: While lying raise up your leg with a straight knee. Keep the opposite knee bent with the foot planned on the ground.. Continue repetitions on each leg for 1 set which equals to 10 reps. After you get used to you can increase the repetitions. Just don’t do a lot on the same day.

Exercise 1


Pelvic rotations/lumbar rotation exercise

2) Pelvic rotations or lower trunk rotation exercises: Lying on your back with your knees bent, gently move your knees side-to-side. You can do 2 sets of 10 reps. Hold at the extreme position when your legs are completely down on one side for at least 10 secs. This will provide a very good stretch to the sciatic nerve

Exercise 2


Pelvic rotations

Decompression position

3) Decompression position: In this position , lie down facing up and keep some stack of pillows underneath your legs. Bend your knees and hips so that both are at a 90-90 degree position as in the picture. This position helps to relieve pressure on the lumbo-sacral spine and also on the buttocks. Be in this position for at least 10-15 mins.


Double knee to chest exercise

4) Double knee to chest position: Bend both of knees and pull it towards your chest. Hold this position for at last 15 seconds and then relax. Do 1 set of 10 reps--one time in a day.


Double knee to chest

Single knee to chest exercise

5) Single knee to chest: This is very similar to the one mentioned above. Instead of two legs pull one at a time. Hold for at least 15 secs and relax. Perform 1 set of 10 reps on both the sides with 15 second hold.


Single knee to chest

Summary of exercises.

The above mentioned exercises are really easy. Start out by doing 1 set of 10 reps in a day and after you get a little used to increase the repetitions. You can keep the hold time as it is or increase it to 30 seconds if you could tolerate. If you have any questions or concerns please leave a comment below. Make sure you do this exercise after consulting your doctor. They are easy but there might be some other factors linked with your sciatica pain. So number one rule is to consult your primary care or orthopedic surgeon before attempting to do it. Also people who are not able to kneel down, especially those who have knee replacement surgeries should avoid the prayer stretch exercise.

Your ultimate goal is to relieve the pressure on the sciatic nerve. Yes, it takes time but regular exercises will help to stretch the nerve and relieve the pressure and symptoms of shooting pain. Good luck!


Prayer stretch

The Prayer Stretch

6) Prayer stretch: This is the last and final exercise and it is called the prayer stretch. It is easy to perform. Sit in a kneeling position and stretch your arms on the floor. Hold this position for at least 15 seconds and then relax. Do 1 set of 10 reps -- one time in a day.

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