Physical Therapy for Sciatica: Everything You Need to Know.

Danh NgoLow Back Pain, Pain Relief DivisionLeave a Comment

There are many causes of low back pain; sciatica is just one. However, the tingling in the legs and pain in the hip and glutes can be debilitating and affects 10-40% of the population. The good news is that there are solutions.

One of the most common treatments is physical therapy for sciatica. Read on to learn more about how physical therapy can help to reduce your pain.

Physical Therapy for Sciatica

There are two different types of exercises for sciatica. The first are exercises that address and relieve the pain. The second is exercises to address the underlying cause of the pain. In order to remain pain-free long term, you need to address both.

A physical therapist will begin with an assessment of your spine, posture, and body mechanics to determine the cause of your pain and then provide exercises to correct the problem. In severe cases, you may need to explore surgical or other options.

Often times, over the counter or prescription pain medicine will eliminate the pain, but will not do anything to address the underlying problem. 

Thread the Needle

Begin by sitting on a table or chair. Maintain an erect spine. Slowly, extend the leg that has pain while looking up. You will experience an increase in pain, which is expected. Breathe slowly and deeply and hold the stretch for five seconds.

Next, lower your leg and head, allowing your chin to drop to your chest. Repeat this exercise five times.

As with most exercises, the more you do them, the larger the benefit. Consider doing this exercise multiple times per day, even when symptoms are minimal. 

This exercise is designed to reduce the pain associated with sciatica.

Straight Leg Slouch

Sit on the floor, with your feet pressed against the wall. Sit up with an erect spine. Take your hands and interlace your fingers and place them on the back of your head. Open your elbows to open your chest.

Next, bring your elbows together and lean forward with a curved spine. Again, you should expect to feel an increase in discomfort. Hold this position for 30 seconds. and repeat five times.

This exercise is designed to address the pain associated with sciatica.

Knee to Chest

Lie flat on your back, your legs should be extended and your feet flexed. Bring one knee to your chest wrapping your arms around your knee. Breath deeply and hold the position for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side and do both sides five times.

To take this exercise to the next level, bring your knee to your chest, then take your knee across your body and hold it with your opposite hand. Hold the position for 30 seconds and repeat five times on each side.

This exercise has two benefits, it can help to eliminate the acute pain of sciatica. When done regularly it will also help to return your hips and pelvis to a full range of motion.

Pigeon: Reclined, Seated, Full

Pigeon is a common yoga pose that can be used to open the hips and eliminate the pain. The fullest expression of the pose is Eka Pada Rajakapotasana. There are however other modifications of the pose that can be beneficial.

For all of the exercises, you should hold them for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.

In reclined pigeon, you lie on your back with your feet on the floor and both knees pointing to the sky.. Take one leg and cross it over the other at the ankle, often this is called a figure four position. Then gently pull the knee to your chest. 

In seated pidgeon, you should sit up with your legs outstretched. Flex your feet and again cross one leg over the other at the ankle. Maintain an erect spine and then lean with your belly, chest, and chin.

To enter full pidgeon, start in a downward dog. Bring your right leg in so that knee meets your right wrist and your ankle reaches the left wrist. Slide your left leg back so that your hips come down evenly on both sides. Use your hands to support your self if necessary.

This exercise is designed to address the underlying causes of sciatic pain by ensuring that your pelvis is in the right position.

Walking and Core Exercises

Besides being beneficial for your overall health, light walking can actually help eliminate sciatic pain. The goal is to walk at a pace that is comfortable for as long as you are pain-free. As you improve your fitness, you will reduce pain and improve your health.

After stretching the muscles to return your body to a normal range of motion, you must work to keep it there. This requires doing regular core exercises to stabilize your lumbar spine and pelvis.

One of the best core exercises is the plank. Come down to a mat on all fours. Your knees should be under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Keep your shoulders and hands in the same place and extend your right foot and then left.

Push through your heels and hold the pose for as long as you can. Your body should be one straight line. Do not hold your breath. Repeat this exercise five times. As your core gets stronger you will be able to hold the exercise for longer.

Now that you have some exercises to address your sciatic pain the key to performing them regularly. If your symptoms worsen or do not improve, consult your physical therapist or physician.

You do not have to live with sciatic pain, there are options. The exercises described can be done in less than 30 minutes.

Are You Experiencing Lower Back or Sciatic Pain?

We are your solution for holistic orthopedic, physical therapy, and sports medicine treatment. Our qualified team knows how to use physical therapy for sciatica. We not only treat the symptoms and pain but also address the underlying cause to prevent it from returning.

Schedule an appointment with us today.


Danh Ngo PT, DPT, OCS, SCS

Doctor of Physical Therapy

Board Certified Specialist in Orthopedic and Sports Medicine

Mind Body Health Results Coach

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