Most Yoga and Stretches WORSENS Sciatic Pain

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 08/31/2023

Sciatica, also known as lumbar radiculopathy or compressed nerve pain, is a symptom of many different underlying problems. It may be one of the most common forms of nerve pain today. In fact, there are more than three million new cases of sciatica in the US every year.

Though many people have surgery done to fix sciatica, there are actually natural ways to help fix sciatica pain quickly and effectively at home. The problem is, most people don't know the right stretches to do for sciatica. Some even practice certain yoga techniques that make matters far worse.

If you are experiencing sciatica pain and want a natural remedy, you're in the right place. I have some simple stretches you can try at home or work to fix sciatica quickly.

In this article: -

  1. What is the Sciatic Nerve?
  2. What Causes Sciatica Pain?
  3. Who's at Risk For Sciatica?
  4. How to Fix Sciatica Pain?
  5. Final thoughts

Woman with back, hamstring, and piriformis muscle pain | Yoga for Sciatica Pain


What is the Sciatic Nerve?

The sciatic nerve happens to be the longest and widest nerve in the entire human body. It starts around your lower back behind the piriformis muscle and runs through the buttocks, the backside of your legs, and all the way to your toes. The nerve is about the thickness of a grown man's thumb at the thickest point. At your knee, the sciatic nerve splits into two separate nerves: the tibial nerve and the common peroneal nerve.

The sciatic nerve's primary function is to supply the muscles of the lower back, calves, back of the knee joints, and ankles. It is responsible for sending and receiving signals to and from the brain. This allows the brain to move your muscles in your lower back, legs, and feet. The sciatic nerve is considered a mixed-function nerve. It includes both sensory neurons and motor neurons, which means it can be used to help the muscles feel as well as move.


What Causes Sciatica Pain?

Certain conditions in the lower back can cause a lot of sciatic nerve irritation. When this happens, it can lead to serious pain throughout the lower back, buttocks, and legs.

Sciatica pain tends to start near the piriformis muscle. The piriformis is a muscle that is deep in the buttock. It runs between the lower spine and the upper surface of the femur diagonally. The sciatic nerve runs underneath or through the piriformis, which is why it can cause sciatica.

The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated disk in the lower back. If you sit incorrectly or had an injury, it's common for the disk to slip out of place. When a disc becomes herniated, it irritates the surrounding nerves and causes sciatica.

Sciatica can also be caused by a bone spur. When there's an overgrowth of bone near the sciatica nerve, it can cause the nerve to become compressed or pinched. In very rare cases, sciatica can be caused by a tumor that puts pressure on the nerve. This leads to nerve pinching and often severe sciatica symptoms unless operated on.

Aside from pain, sciatica can also cause symptoms such as tingling, numbness, burning or pins and needles sensations, difficulty walking, and weakness in your lower body.


Who's at Risk For Sciatica?

Sciatica is so common today because there are many different occupations and every-day habits that contribute to a pinched sciatic nerve. Those who work at an office are especially prone to sciatic pain. If you have to sit all day in an office chair with poor lumbar support, this can cause you to slouch.

Jobs that require a lot of bending, twisting, and heavy lifting can also cause damage to your back and lead to sciatica. This includes people who work as construction workersmechanicswarehouse workers, and movers.

Moms can also develop sciatica from taking care of their children. Over time, bending over to pick up toys, holding your children, and lugging around a heavy diaper bag can cause a protruding disk.

Aside from occupations, there are also habits at home that can put you at a higher risk for sciatica. For instance, sitting on the couch with an incorrect posture can slowly cause a disk to slip out of place.

Injuries, including car accidents, slips, falls, and sports trauma, can cause damage to your spine and lead to sciatica. Injuries can even cause sciatica decades down the road.

If you have sciatica, I have some simple tips to help relieve the pain. Take a look.

Woman with sciatic nerve pain stretching left thigh | Yoga for Sciatica Pain


How to Fix Sciatica Pain?

How can you get sciatica pain relief fast? You might have thought that your last yoga class would fix sciatica, but most people don't know the right techniques for sciatica. Why? Because you actually need to stretch the opposite nerve.

Yoga teachers often have you stretch the nerve that has pain, typically your hamstrings, lower back, and piriformis. But this is exactly the opposite of what you want to do. Instead, you need to stretch the opposite muscles. Here's how the technique works.

The Opposite Stretch Technique for Sciatica

When you have pain in a certain muscle or nerve, you don't want to stretch it. Stretching a muscle or nerve with built-up tension tends to be like stretching a rubber band. It snaps right back as soon as the stretch is over. Not only does it not help, but you can also contribute to sciatica pain because you can increase the inflammation of the sciatic nerve.

Instead, you want to stretch the opposite muscles. Since sciatica is a problem with the sciatic nerve that runs from the lower back through the piriformis and hamstring (which are all on the backside of your body), you want to stretch the muscles on the front side of your body—particularly your quadriceps.

Try these two stretches for sciatica:

Standing Quadriceps Stretch

The most simple way to help fix sciatica pain is to use the standing quadriceps stretch. The only thing you need is a steady chair or another solid object to help you keep your balance. Here's how it works:

Step 1: Find a steady object (or person) to hold on to with your left hand.

Step 2: Using your right hand, pull your leg up behind you as close to your buttocks as possible. 

Step 3: Hold this position for one minute.

Step 4: Repeat these steps for your other quadricep.

I recommend you do this a few times a day until you feel the pain go away.

Kneeling Quadriceps Stretch

The kneeling quadriceps stretch is just slightly more difficult than the standing stretch. Once again, you'll need a chair to hold on to in order to keep your balance. A park bench or couch should work as well. Here's how it works:

Step 1: Kneel on your right knee while curving your pelvis under.

Step 2: Keeping your shoulders and chest upright, bend forward from the hip to knee.

Step 3: Hold this position for about one minute.

Step 4: Repeat these steps to stretch your other quadricep.

For extra comfort, you can place a pillow, folded towel, or blanket under your knee to provide cushioning.


Final Thoughts

To help prevent sciatica in the future, I recommend that you continue to do these stretches as well as avoid habits that cause sciatica.

As I mentioned before, poor posture can cause a protruding disk and contribute to sciatica symptoms. A good posture is essential for preventing sciatica—especially if you sit for long periods of time, including at work and on the couch at home. If you haven't already seen my techniques for improving your posture, I recommend you watch them here.

Give these tips a try and see if it helps with your sciatica.

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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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