Alleviate Sciatic Nerve Pain with These Simple Exercises

Learn how to alleviate sciatic nerve pain with these easy-to-follow exercises from Dr. Sean Hiller, designed to reduce symptoms and improve mobility.
Written by
Sean Hiller
Published on
Jul 9, 2024

Alleviate Sciatic Nerve Pain with These Simple Exercises

Welcome to the Vulcan blog! I’m Dr. Sean Hiller, a physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist. This article will guide you through exercises that can help alleviate the debilitating symptoms of sciatic nerve pain caused by a bulging disc, herniated disc, or compressed nerve in the lower back. These exercises aim to reduce your pain, improve your mobility, and get you moving better by the end of our session. This Vulcan article is a companion to a recent video on the Vulcan Performance YouTube channel. Make sure to head over there and hit "subscribe" to get more videos like this one!

Understanding Sciatic Nerve Pain

Sciatic nerve pain often starts in the lower back and travels down the leg, sometimes reaching the foot. It can be severely painful and restrict movement. As we go through these exercises, it’s important to note the changes in your symptoms. If the pain starts moving up the leg (centralizing), that’s a good sign. However, if it worsens or travels further down the leg, these exercises might not be suitable for you.

Source: Penn Medicine

The Exercises

1. Seal Press

  • How to do it: Lie on your stomach with legs relaxed. Press up with your arms, keeping elbows at a 90-degree angle if full extension is painful.
  • Reps: 10 reps, holding at the top for 3 seconds each.
  • Tip: Ensure your pain stays below a 2-3 out of 10. If pain worsens, adjust your range of motion.
Version 1 - Modification if pain is too great
Version 2 - Full extension if possible

2. Single Leg Mule Kick

  • How to do it: From a prone position (lying on your stomach), flex your knee and ankle so that both are at a 90-degree angle with the bottom of your foot parallel to the ceiling. Starting with one leg, try to touch the ceiling with the bottom of your foot. At the top of the rep, hold for 2 seconds and then return to the starting position.
  • Reps: 5 reps per leg, holding at the top for a second or two.
  • Tip: Focus on contracting the glutes. It’s okay if you can’t lift your leg high or at all initially. You should still feel a contraction in your glute muscles.

3. Bird Dog (Legs Only)

  • How to do it: In a quadruped position (on hands and knees), extend one leg straight back, keeping your lower back stable and neutral (not rounded up or sagging down). Hold for a second and then return to the starting position.
  • Reps: 6 reps per side.
  • Tip: Maintain a flat back throughout the movement.
Bird Dog Starting Position

4. Glute Bridge

  • How to do it: Lie on your back and lift your hips, holding at the top for 5 seconds.
  • Reps: 5 reps with a 5-second hold each.
  • Tip: Focus on engaging your glutes and lower back.

5. Superman Taps

  • How to do it: While laying prone down on your stomach, lift your chest and arms off the ground with your arms straight out above your head. Starting with one hand, tap the back of your head. Return to starting position and repeat with the other hand. Alternating hands, complete 10 taps total. When finished, rest for 30 seconds and then complete 4 more rounds of 10 taps.
  • Reps: 5 sets of 10 taps.
  • Tip: This exercise strengthens your back and encourages nerve pain to centralize.

6. Sots Press

  • How to do it: From a standing position with a slight hip hinge, press a dowel or broomstick overhead, holding for 3 seconds at the top.
  • Reps: 10 reps with a 3-second hold each.
  • Tip: Keep your hips back and focus on proper form.

Checking Your Progress

After completing these exercises, stand up and reassess your symptoms. Are they moving up the leg? Is your back feeling more relieved? If you notice improvement, repeat these exercises 3 times through each daily for continued relief.

What If It Doesn’t Help?

If your pain worsens or doesn’t improve, these exercises might not be right for your condition. Answer these two questions:

  1. Do you prefer sitting or standing?
  2. Do you prefer lying flat on your back or on your side in the fetal position?

If you prefer standing over sitting and lying on your back over the fetal position, continue with these exercises. If you prefer sitting and the fetal position, you might have a different issue, such as stenosis or degenerative disc disease. In that case, check out our other video for exercises tailored to those conditions.

Stay Connected

We hope these exercises help alleviate your sciatic nerve pain. Remember to do them daily and monitor your progress. If you found this helpful, please subscribe to the Vulcan blog, subscribe to our YouTube channel, or both! Your support helps us reach more people in need of relief. You can also download a free copy of these exercises by clicking here: Exercises for Sciatica Relief

If you are in the Birmingham, Alabama area and are in need of a physical therapist for low back pain or another issue, fill our one of these forms to get started today: Free Injury Screen | Physical Therapy Appointment Request

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