The sciatic nerve, the largest single nerve in the human body, serves a vital role in connecting the spinal cord with the leg and foot muscles. Any pain or neurological symptom felt along the sciatic nerve is referred to as sciatica. It is estimated that 4 out of 10 people will develop sciatica or irritation of this nerve at some point in life.
This nerve is located deep in the buttock, beneath the piriformis muscle – which connects the top of the femur to the spine, and it’s the main one that supports the outward movement of the hip, upper leg, and foot.
Sometimes the sciatic nerve can pass through this muscle and thus cause sciatica symptoms, or known as piriformis syndrome, characterized by poor movement and balance and pain in the lower back and hips.
Swelling or constriction of the piriformis muscle is the main cause of sciatica, but it can also be a result of some other factors as well.
As such, it is mostly treated with medications, like aspirin, acetaminophen, or in some cases NSAIDs, physical therapy, and surgery. Antidepressants, muscle relaxants, and painkillers are used to treat intense pain related with sciatica.
Dealing only with the symptoms and nothing about the irritation of the nerve itself is likely to set you on a path spending your life on drugs.
But there is another way: the following piriformis stretches compiled by Healthy Life Box offer incredible effects in the treatment of sciatica pain.
As with every other exercise, be sure to warm up for a few minutes before the stretches. Remain within your comfort limits. It is also smart to consult your spine specialist before engaging.
1. Standing Piriformis stretch
Stand and put the painful leg over the other leg’s knee, lower the hips toward the floor at a 45-degree angle. Bend the knee of the standing leg and lean forward while extending the arms parallel to the ground. Hold for 30-60 seconds with a straight spine, and switch legs.
2. Supine Piriformis stretch
Source: Pain Therapy
Lie on your back with the knees bent upwards, cross the painful leg over the other by bending it upwards toward your chest. Then grab one knee with one hand, and the ankle with the other. Gently pull toward the shoulder, staying in line with the ankle, and hold for 30 seconds.
3. Outer hip Piriformis stretch
Source: Dennis Passetto
Lie on your back and bend up the affected leg, placing the foot of the other leg near the back of the knee . Then, tuck the foot under the knee and twist the bent leg over the other one until it touches the ground.
Hold the knee with your opposite arm while raising the other in the air. Then, slowly lower the raised arm toward the opposite direction of the bent knee, holding that position for about 20 seconds.
Do the same with the other leg.
4. Buttocks stretch for the Piriformis muscle
Place both your hands and knees on the ground, and then put the foot of the leg that hurts beneath your trunk. Then twist the foot toward the other side, as near as possible to the hip. The bent knee ought to be directed toward the shoulder.
Then put your forehead on the ground while also leaning the forearms flat. Straighten the pelvis, and while stretching the healthy leg behind you, gently push your hips downward. Stay in that position for about 30 seconds, then repeat it 3 times.
5. Long adductor (groin) stretch
Sit on the floor with the legs stretched straight out and apart. Then, gently bend your upper body forward facing the ground, while putting both hands on the floor one by the other. Tilt forward trying to touch the ground with your elbows and remain in that position for about 10 to 20 seconds.
6. Hip extension exercise
Put both your hands and knees on the ground, with the hands stretched directly downward from the shoulders. Then slowly release pressure off the painful leg by lifting it upward toward the ceiling and gently lower it down, Repeat this 15 times.
7. Side lying clam exercise
Lay on the side, positioning your affected leg on top. Bend the knees in order to get your legs to form the letter L, always keeping your feet one above the other and the legs in parallel.
Lift the affected knee up, and then gently lower it down. About 15 repetitions should be enough.
8. Seated stretch
Sitting on a chair, lift the affected leg over the the knee of the other. Then tilt forward a bit, with your chest out and back straight, and stay in that position 10-15 seconds. Bend a bit further down (or at least try), and stay like that for no more than 30 seconds. Follow the same steps with the legs in switched position.
9. Inner thigh exercise – Short adductor stretch
While sitting on the floor, try and make the soles of your feet touch in front of the pelvis. With left hand on right ankle and vice-versa (right hand on left ankle), push the knees out and down until you touch the ground with them. Hold for 30 seconds.
Lift your hands from the ankles and while keeping your soles touching, flutter gently the legs like bird wings for about 30 seconds.
10. Supine Piriformis side stretch
Lie on the ground keeping your legs and back flat on the floor. Then, bend the affected leg up and put the foot to the outer side of the other leg, in the vicinity of the knee.
Then with the opposite hand, pull the raised knee across the midline of your body, holding this position for 30 seconds. Try and keep both shoulders and hips in constant contact with the floor. Repeat 3 times.
Here are some more ways to ease sciatic pain.