By: Stephen H. Hochschuler, MD
Physical therapy exercises – incorporating strengthening, stretching and aerobic conditioning – are a central component of almost any sciatica treatment plan.
When patients engage in a regular program of gentle strengthening, stretching and aerobic exercises, they can recover more quickly from sciatica pain and are less likely to have future episodes of pain.
Sciatica exercises usually focus on three key areas:
Many exercises can help strengthen the spinal column and the supporting muscles, ligaments and tendons. Most of these back exercises focus not only on the lower back, but also the abdominal (stomach) muscles and gluteus (buttocks) and hip muscles. Taken together, these strong ‘core’ muscles can provide pain relief because they support the spine, keeping it in alignment and facilitating movements that extend or twist the spine with less chance of injury or damage.
Stretching is usually recommended to alleviate sciatic pain. Stretches for sciatica are designed to target muscles that cause pain when they are tight and inflexible. Hamstring stretching is almost always an important part of a sciatica exercise program.