Best Stretches for Sciatica

by Onward Physical Therapy | November 14, 2023 |
 Low Back
Best Stretches for Sciatica

Are you having pain down one or both of your legs? Numbness or tingling in your feet? You could be dealing with sciatica or an irritation of the sciatic nerve that runs from your back down your leg. Let’s learn more about sciatica nerve pain and share a few exercises to start bringing you relief!

What is Sciatica Nerve Pain?

Sciatica is a term used to describe several different conditions that can result in the sciatic nerve becoming irritated and resulting in pain running down the leg. These symptoms can come from tissue irritation in the back or sciatic nerve.

A common myth with sciatica is that this diagnosis means that other tissues are always compressing your sciatic nerve. But it is important to note that often, the sciatic nerve becomes painful just because of inflammation in other nearby tissues. For example, oftentimes, low back muscle strains result in inflammation that irritates the sciatic nerve even though the nerve itself is not damaged in any way.

That is important to note as we move forward as you’ll notice that the exercises we will share focus on the two things the sciatic nerve likes:

  1. Movement: stretches that help the sciatic nerve glide better
  2. Blood flow: pumping blood into the tissues around the nerve to help pump inflammation out

What are the Best Stretches for Sciatica?

Sciatic Floss

Let’s start by directly working on sciatic nerve movement with what we call gliders. Nerves do not like to be aggressively stretched. So, when working on sciatic nerve movements, you’ll often see the knee and ankle moving as the stretch is performed. This is to avoid taking the nerve to the end range under maximal tension that often further aggravates the nerve.


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Banded Cat Cow

Our following two stretches focus on creating more of a blood pump to the tissues near the nerve. Cat/cow is a gentle stretch for the lower back where we focus on moving the back into flexion and extension. We’ll often have athletes perform cat/cow and biking in a quick circuit to mobilize the back and work the muscles of the lower leg to help with local inflammation.

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Reverse Hyper Variations

A second great way to mobilize the nerves and back and create a fluid pump is to perform reverse hypers. This exercise is one of the best movements any athlete can do to help with sciatica and long-term relief. Most gyms don’t have an actual reverse hyper machine, so the following video outlines a few ways to DIY Reverse Hypers.

View on YouTube:

When Should Someone See a Physical Therapist for Sciatica?

Consider seeing a Physical Therapist if you meet any of these criteria:

  1. You aren’t sure what issues are leading to your sciatica nerve pain.
  2. Pain is limiting your daily function or not improving after 2-3 weeks of self-care
  3. You have had multiple episodes of Sciatic nerve pain and want to find a long-term solution to stop recurring flare-ups

Onward’s back pain specialists can help provide you with rapid relief of sciatica symptoms and come up with a long-term plan to help prevent sciatic nerve pain from returning. If you’re ready to get on the road to healing, schedule an appointment today!