The sciatic nerve forms from a bundle of nerves in the lower spine and runs down the back of the leg from the hip to the foot. If the sciatic nerve becomes compressed, damaged or irritated, it creates a series of symptoms known as sciatica. According to the Mayo Clinic, a herniated lumbar disc is one of the most common causes. A tight piriformis – a cone-shaped muscle in the buttock – is another. Exercises that stretch the buttock and hip muscles and those that work the lower back can relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve.
The reclining pigeon pose stretches the piriformis muscle, as well as gluteus muscles, to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve. Start on your back with your arms by your sides and your knees bent with the soles of your feet on the floor. If the sciatica is in your right leg, cross your right ankle over your left thigh. Your legs should make a triangle with your right knee pointing to the right. Reach your right hand through the triangle and your left hand around the outside of your left thigh. Clasp your hands behind the left thigh and gently pull the left knee toward your chest. You should feel a stretch in your right hip and buttock. Allow you left knee to drift to the left until your right knee points toward the ceiling. You should feel the stretch deeper in the right buttock and along the outside of your right thigh. Hold the stretch for up to 20 seconds and release. Do the stretch three times on each leg to keep the muscles balanced.
The low plank strengthens your abs and lower back by forcing the muscles to engage to keep the trunk stable. Start face down with your forearms on the floor and your hands clasped. Your forearms should form an inverted “V” with your elbows directly beneath your shoulders. Raise up on your toes so that your entire body hovers a few inches above the floor. Your body should make a straight line from the top of your head to your heels. Hold the position for up to 20 seconds and release. For a less intense exercise, keep your knees on the floor and raise your torso and thighs. For a more intense exercise, lift one foot for 10 seconds.
The seated twist stretches the hip, thigh and lower back muscles to release pressure on the sciatic nerve. Start on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. If the sciatica is in your left leg, shift your weight to your right buttock and bend both legs with your knees stacked on top of each other. Turn your torso slightly to the left; use your arms for support if necessary. You should feel a stretch in your left hip and buttock. Hold this pose for up to 20 seconds, release and switch to the other side. For a more intense stretch, straighten your right leg, rest your left ankle on your right thigh and touch your left knee to the floor. For a less intense stretch, keep your torso facing forward and lean back slightly.
Kneeling Back Bend
The kneeling back bend extends the back to relieve pressure from a herniated disc and stretch the front of the body. Stand on your knees with your knees hip-width apart and your shins and the tops of your feet flat on the floor. Lean back so that your body makes a 45-degree angle. Reach back and place the fingers of both hands on the heels of your feet. Arch your back slightly and push your chest toward the ceiling. Your body should resemble a triangle. If you are unable to reach your heels, reach for your shins or put your hands on your lower back and arch backward.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.