I was fortunate the first time I experienced the pain of sciatica – my husband had already gone through it before me. Thanks to his pain (sorry honey), I knew right away what was going on and I also had some strategies to help ease the pain. Sometimes sciatica is a minor annoying discomfort. Other times, however, it can cause serious pain. I felt like I could barely move the first time I felt it.
Zip Zap Zing
Your sciatic nerve starts in the low back and runs deep through the buttocks and thighs and along the side of the legs. Sciatica can be caused by a number of things. Compression, irritation, or injury of the sciatic nerve can be one cause. Tight, overused, or injured muscles can also cause sciatica as they swell and inflame and press on the sciatic nerve. Sciatica pain is a sharp, throbbing, or burning sensation that can be felt in the buttocks and can radiate down your leg. It can also be felt as numbness or tingling or zinging as I like to call it.
Since the sciatic nerve is so big and long, it can get pinched at several different locations along its route. Two common areas are in the low back and underneath the piriformis muscle. The piriformis is a small muscle that is located deep in your hip. It helps rotate the hip outward and lift your leg out to the side. A tight piriformis by itself can cause you pain in the butt, but then if it presses on the sciatic nerve that passes underneath (and for some people right through) it, you can have the even more uncomfortable pain of sciatica appear.
There are other things that could cause pain in that region. These can include a tight ilioitibial (IT) which band runs along the outside of your leg from the hip to the knee and shin, weak inner thigh muscles, and injured hamstring tendons. Sometimes there can be multiple things going on, so if your pain continues despite your best efforts, it’s time to seek professional help.
Yoga Practice in a Chair
Here are some stretches that are designed to help relieve tension in the piriformis muscle, strengthen the inner thigh muscles, and gently stretch the areas that are common culprits for low back and sciatic pain. These are all done with a chair, so you can do them right from work, or anywhere you can grab a chair. Try them gently, listening to your body and noticing what sensations come up. As always, this is intended as informational and is not intended as medical advice.
1. Pigeon in a Chair
Try to find a chair in which you can sit comfortably with both feet flat on the floor and your thighs roughly parallel to the floor. Place your right ankle near your left knee and try to relax your right knee toward the floor. Repeat on the left side.
2. Cat/Cow in a Chair
For cow in a chair, sit with both feet flat on the floor and your hands on your knees. Inhale and draw your chest forward, arching your back, drawing your shoulder blades toward each other. Exhale and round through the spine, dropping the head and chin to your chest. Repeat several times.
3. Seated hamstring stretch
Sit on the edge of the chair and stretch your right leg out in front of you. Press your heel on the floor and your toes point back towards you.
If you are comfortable here you can stay here or if you'd like to take it a little bit deeper begin to fold yourself forward over your right leg keeping your spine long. Hold for a few breaths, then repeat on the other side.
4. Standing Back Twist
Put your right foot up on a chair and place the outside of your left hand on your raised knee (left hand to the right knee). Place your other hand on your hip. Turning your upper body to look over toward your right and hold for a few breaths, then switch. Don’t push past where you’re comfortable.
5. Lower-Back Circles
Sit in the chair with feet hip-width apart and hands resting on knees. Inhale, then begin circling your torso clockwise, making sure to initiate movement from the low back. Rotate 5-6 times. Stop and then repeat the motion by circling in a counterclockwise direction.
6. Wide legged Forward fold with Chair
Standing with the chair in front of you and your legs out wide, inhale and reach up. On an exhale, bring your hands down to the chair and drop your chest down. Hold for 5 breaths pressing the hands into the chair.
If you’d like to do these stretches along with me (plus a few additional ones), you can follow along with me on this video from my video library.
I hope this is helpful! Do you sometimes have sciatic pain? How did these stretches go for you?