Updated: Apr 21
Hello, fitness friends! Today we're going to talk about something that can be a real pain in the butt (pun intended) - sciatic nerve pain.
First of all, what is the sciatic nerve? It's the longest nerve in your body, running from your lower back down through your buttocks and legs. When this nerve gets compressed or irritated, it can cause a sharp, shooting pain that radiates down one or both legs. Ouch!
But this can also look different for everybody. It doesn’t have to shoot down the legs at all. It could just be a pain in the butt. It could slightly radiate down a leg. It could severely radiate down a leg. It looks different for everyone but if you get that sharp pain like someone is stabbing you in the butt…Sciatic nerve.
So what causes this pesky pain? Well, there are a few different things that can contribute. One common culprit is a herniated or bulging disc in your spine. When one of these discs presses on the sciatic nerve, it can cause pain, numbness, and tingling in your leg. Another common cause is spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal that can put pressure on the nerve. And sometimes, simply sitting for long periods of time or doing certain activities (like running or cycling) can irritate the nerves and cause pain.
But fear not! There are things you can do to help prevent sciatic nerve pain. One of the most important things is to practice good posture. (Download your free 30 Day Guide to Better Posture)
Sitting or standing with your back straight and shoulders relaxed can help take pressure off your lower back and prevent nerve compression. It's also a good idea to stretch regularly, especially your hamstrings and hip flexors, as tightness in these areas can contribute to nerve irritation. And finally, staying active and maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent sciatica by reducing pressure on your lower back.
If you do find yourself dealing with sciatic nerve pain, there are treatments available to help relieve the discomfort. Physical therapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture and massage can all be effective in reducing nerve compression and improving range of motion. In some cases, medication or even surgery may be necessary to address the underlying cause of the pain.
Flair ups of sciatic nerve can really put a damper on your day, your fitness routines, and can hinder your daily activities. Let’s take a look at a few stretches you can do to help when it’s hurting. Remember to start slow and stretch to YOUR limit on THAT day. Just because you normally can stretch further, doesn’t mean you should today. Hold for what feels comfortable and feels good. There is no real “ideal” amount of time. It’s different for everyone and how your body feels that particular day.
First up, Seated Spinal Twist.
Sit down on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Cross your right foot over you left knee. Turn toward the left knee and pull the knee to your chest. This isn't about getting the biggest twist. It's more about pulling the knee!
If this one isn't quite doing it for you try this more advanced modification of bending your extended leg. Try to keep both sit bones on the floor and pull that knee to the chest.
Ahh feels good already! But let's do another very common stretch: Seated Figure 4.
Cross one foot over your knee and gently push your knee down. Lean forward as much as you can to feel the stretch.
Let’s keep this sciatic nerve stretch party going with Knee to the Opposite Shoulder.
Bring your right knee to your right shoulder. Keeping you back on the floor, cross the knee slightly over to the left shoulder. Might not be very far!
This one's for the advanced folks: Pigeon Pose.
From a tabletop position, bring your right knee to your right wrist and slide your right foot toward your left wrist. Sit tall or bend forward. You can also put a towel under your hip for support.
Everyone should be doing the Hamstring Stretch. Not only can this one help during a flare up, but it can also help prevent one!
You can do this seated or even standing. Grab a towel or a strap if you can't reach your foot.
Grab a block, a piece of furniture, whatever you need to help with this stretch. Standing Scissor Hamstring Stretch with a Twist.
See that back foot? That stretches right along the nerve. So take it easy and first.
So there you have it, folks! Sciatic nerve pain may be a pain in the butt (sorry, couldn't resist), but it doesn't have to be a permanent problem. By taking care of your body and being mindful of your posture and activities, you can help prevent this common issue from cropping up. And if it does happen, try these stretches to help you find relief. If it gets real bad, seek out additional help from your healthcare team. It’s not worth it to live in pain!