Have you heard of sciatica? A lot of people complain about nerve pain down the back of their leg. Usually the cause is within the lower back or pelvis. I’m going to give you 2 stretches today for the sciatic nerve.
It is the largest nerve in the body. It runs down the back of the leg and splits into two behind the knee. It runs the whole way to the foot.
It can cause shooting pain, numbness, tingling, dead leg feeling or the feeling that your leg is falling asleep. The first exercise is this. It is called flossing. We are going to sit up nice and straight here.
What you are going to do is straighten the affected leg or the leg with pain. Stretch that leg out and look up at the same time. As you are doing this, if you are doing it right and you are doing it on the painful leg, it could actually make the symptoms travel down your leg.
That is ok. You are putting a stretch on the nerve. We are going to hold that 5 seconds. Then bend your knee and look down. 5 second holds here. 5 second holds, 10 times each way. This is called flossing.
The next exercise is called a slump stretch. Same idea here, as you are doing this exercise, you could experience increased symptoms down the leg and that is ok. Outside of the flossing or this exercise, no other exercise should increase the pain travelling down the leg.
Everything else should actually decrease the pain in the leg and you will experience more pain in your lower back. What we do is this: Feet against the wall, knees straight, fingers interlocked behind the head. Then you are going to slump forward. So bring your elbows in.
There you go. This should cause pretty sharp symptoms down the back of your leg. It is called the slump stretch and it is ok to feel increased pain down the back of the leg. We hold this for 30 seconds and we do 3 of them in the clinic.
Now if that is too difficult, if that is too advanced, here is what you can do: Place your arms behind you and sit up and arch your back. What you want to try to do is if that is too much for you, if that is too intense, you can place your arms behind your back and simply arch your back. Rock your pelvis forward.
That will do the same exact thing but it is a little less intense than interlocking your fingers behind your neck and leaning forward. This is a little more basic. So you can modify.
The same idea though 30 seconds, 3 times. If you can at least get yourself to sit up straight with the legs straight, feet flat against the wall, you are in good shape.
The third exercise you should do for sciatica or symptoms running down your leg is this: Realize that with symptoms travelling down your leg, often there isn’t a problem within the leg.
The problem is within the lower back or the pelvis. The sciatic nerve, the nerve roots where it originates is in your lower back. If you are getting pressure on the nerve roots there either from disc degeneration, from a herniated disc or, as is also common, a problem within the pelvis and the sacroiliac joint.
If you have a problem there that is putting increased pressure on the nerve, that is what creates the symptoms in your leg. You can think about it like this: if you have a long garden hose and there is water running through it and you pinch one end, obviously at the other end you are going to have less water flow.
Same idea in your body. If you pinch that sciatic nerve, that is what creates the symptoms. That is what changes what you are feeling down your leg. The solution isn’t to continually address the problems in your leg. Or to put heat on your leg or ice on your leg.
The solution is to relieve the pressure on the other end of the garden hose or the other end of the sciatic nerve. So what you need to do is figure out what is causing the symptoms down your leg.
A good Physical Therapist can help you do that and they can decipher through testing whether it is coming from arthritis or disc degeneration or stenosis in your back, a herniated disc or a problem in your pelvis.
So the third exercise that you should be doing is the 3 exercises that are addressing the cause of your sciatic nerve pain..