It is estimated that 40 percent of adults have experienced sciatica at some point in their lives. This condition is characterized by pain, tenderness, tingling, or numbness in the lower back, butt, back of the thigh, and/or calf, usually on one side.
Although sciatica can be caused by a number of things, one common cause is tightness in the piriformis muscle—a small muscle that sits close to the hip joint. When this muscle is very tight, it can exert pressure on the sciatic nerve, thus causing the pain associated with sciatica. Another common cause is a herniated disc (or discs) in the lower back, which can also put pressure on the sciatic nerve.
These four postures will help to stretch and release a tight piriformis muscle, as well as open and strengthen the lower back.
1. Eye of the Needle
Lie on your back with knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor, about hips width apart. Lift your right leg and cross it over your left, so that the outside of your right shin is resting right above your left knee. Some people will already feel a stretch here, but if you want to go deeper, you can lift your left leg, grab your left shin with your hands, and hug it in toward your belly. Breathe deeply through the nose for ten breaths.
2. Pigeon Pose
Start on your hands and knees. Bring your right knee forward and place it between your hands. Walk your left foot back behind you until it’s straight, and lower your hips toward the floor. Your right foot should be just in front of your left hip flexor, and your left thigh and shin should be resting on the floor. You can keep your torso raised, or you can walk your hands out in front of you and relax your torso toward the floor. Breathe deeply through the nose for ten breaths.
Note: This pose is NOT recommended for those with knee pain!
3. Sphinx Pose
Lie down on your belly. Prop yourself up by grabbing opposite elbows with your hands, and then move your elbows forward so that they are slightly ahead of your shoulders. If this stretch is too intense in your lower back, move your elbows forward even more so that your torso is not as lifted. When you find a comfortable stretch, release your elbows and bring your forearms and hands in front of you for support. Breathe deeply, and hold for as long as you like!
Start on your hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. As you inhale, arch your back, drop your belly to the floor, and lift your head to look up slightly. As you exhale, round your back, raise your belly toward the sky, and tuck your head toward your chest. Continue these movements, slowly and gently, for ten deep breaths.
Remember to always speak to a medical professional before trying new exercises and stretches, especially if your sciatica is severe, as they may not be appropriate for you!
-The Alternative Daily