Sciatica affects many people and its most common symptom is radiating leg pain. Yoga poses may be able to offer some relief to those suffering from sciatica pain. The reason being that yoga is able to release tension from the affected area and this way offers relief to the source of the pain.
Interestingly, sciatica is not a condition itself. It is a symptom of an underlying one.
Check out this video for an explanation of what sciatica is.
Unfortunately, sciatica is a common type of pain that affects the sciatic nerve. This nerve extends from the lower back down the back of each leg, though usually sciatica affects only one side of the lower body, not both.
The reason that yoga therapy can help with sciatica is that it can help strengthen muscles around the spine. This is turn can help take the pressure off the discs.
Below are some low back pain and sciatica facts and statistics as found in academic studies.
Sciatica is very common
According to Harvard Health: “Sciatica is one of the most common, yet misunderstood, types of pain. As many as 40% of people will get it during their life, and it becomes more frequent as you age.”
Sciatica pain occurs in the leg
According to Valat et al (2010) in their academic article titled Sciatica: “Sciatica is a symptom rather than a specific diagnosis. The most important symptom is leg pain radiating below the knee and into the foot and toes. In ∼90% of cases, sciatica is caused by a herniated disc with nerve-root compression.”
Sciatica pain management
According to Koes et al (2007) in their academic article titled Diagnosis and treatment of sciatica: “Conservative treatment for sciatica is primarily aimed at pain reduction, either by analgesics or by reducing pressure on the nerve root.”
Most patients have positive prognosis
According to Koes et al (2007) in their academic article titled Diagnosis and treatment of sciatica: “Most patients with acute sciatica have a favorable prognosis but about 20%-30% have persisting problems after one or two years”.
Yoga may help with sciatica pain
According to Monro et al (2015) in their academic article titled Disc extrusions and bulges in nonspecific low back pain and sciatica: “Previous trials of yoga therapy for nonspecific low back pain showed beneficial effects. Yoga therapy can be safe and beneficial for patients with sciatica, accompanied by disc extrusions and bulges.”
How can I ease the pain of sciatica?
According to Harvard health, rest can help with the pain caused by sciatica. Additionally, you could try using anti-inflammatory medication as that may also help ease the pain. Finally, apply to the area for about 15 – 20 minutes, three times a day, especially during the first days of pain.
What should you not do with sciatica?
Firstly, listen to your body, We are all different and may experience the pain differently. Some general things to avoid with sciatica are: 1) try not to sit for extended periods of time, 2) Avoid flexibility exercises like trying to reach toes as this may aggravate a herniated disc.
Additionally, be careful if you lift weights and if your exercise or yoga routine has many torso twists. The reason being that these may aggravate your sciatica.
If they do not, then make sure you consult with your doctor before continuing.
Can too much sitting cause sciatica?
According to an interview with Dr. David Petron, a sports medicine physician with The Univirsity of Utah Health, “the most common reason is really prolonged sitting.” Indeed, we are not designed to sit for too many hours. Sitting puts pressure on the spine and encourages bulging discs.
And so try to not sit for extended periods of time. If your job asks of you to sit for many hours, make a point of getting up and walking every so ofen, so as to give your back a rest.
Additionally, try physiotherapy to ease the pain or try going to a yoga class to maintain a healthy spine. Of course, discuss your issue with the teacher and make sure he/she is aware of dealing with sciatica pain.
How should I lay with sciatica?
Try finding a sleeping position that is comfortable for you. As with most back pain, you may find it more comfortable to sleep on your back, with your knees slightly bent and elevated with a pillow. If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your knees to keep your hips squared.
9 Yoga Poses To Relieve Sciatica Pain
A study was carried out in 2005 in the US and compared yoga, exercise, and a self-care book for chronic low back pain.
The authors of the study pointed out that each year, more than 1 million people in the US used yoga as a treatment for back pain. They went on to say that this may be due to the benefits yoga may offer as an exercise, or it may be due to the effects of mental focus.
And so in this study which involved 12 weeks of yoga found that: “Yoga was more effective than a self-care book for improving function and reducing chronic low back pain, and the benefits persisted for at least several months.”
Each class involved 5 to 12 of the postures listed below, each repeated 3-6 times.
These postures aim to help relax, build strength, increase flexibility, encourage the movement of large muscles, and also encourage the strengthening of hip muscles among other things.
In addition to these postures, participants also practiced breathing exercises and guided deep relaxation.
So let’s have a look at some of the poses used in the study you could try practicing next time you have sciatica.
1. Cobra pose
Cobra pose is very commonly done in yoga classes to gently open the chest and relax the back. If you have never done this pose, here are a few instructions.
- Lie on your belly and place your hands next to your chest.
- Inhale and gently push your chest off the floor. If possible, gently lift your gaze.
- If you experience pain, try to not extend too much.
One key benefit of cobra pose is that it stretches muscles in the shoulders, chest, and abdominals. It also helps to decrease any stiffness of the lower back and in turn, it helps soothe any sciatica pain.
The cat-cow pose is very commonly done at the start of Hatha classes to warm up the spine and calm the mind. If you have never done this pose, here are a few instructions.
- Come to tabletop position, with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees.
- For the cow tilt, inhale and expand the belly to the floor and lift your gaze.
- For the cat stretch, exhale and bring the belly button to the spine, press your shoulder blades to the ceiling and bring your chin towards your chest (as seen in the photo above).
Follow the pace of your breath for as many rounds as you want. Inhale and open, exhale, and stretch. This movement of the vertebrae helps to improve circulation among the discs, which in turn helps relieve stress from the back.
Bridge pose is a wonderful back-bending pose to help ease back pain. If you have never done this pose, here are a few instructions.
- Lie on your back and place your feet on the floor.
- On an inhale, press your feet into the floor and lift your pelvis (lifting your heels is optional).
This pose helps to strengthen the legs and back. Due to the curve of the back, it may help ease back pain.
4. Supine butterfly
This asana is one of my absolute favorites. It can be done seated upright or for a more calming effect, you can fold forward as seen in the photo above. If you have bend practiced this posse, here are some instructions and modifications:
- Sit upright and place the soles of your feet together.
- If you have tight hips, your knees will be rather high above the floor. If this is the case, you could sit on a folded blanket. You can also place yoga blocks under your knees to keep them safe when folding forward.
- Either sit upright holding on to your feet or fold forward.
- If your head if above the floor, then place your forehead on a yoga block to relieve tension in the neck and also to help calm the mind.
This asana is a very effective hip opener. It also helps improve flexibility in the inner thighs and groin. This pose has also used a preparation for meditation, which has also been found to help in the elimination of stress and anxiety.
5. Reclining hand-to-foot pose
This asana can help increase flexibility in the hamstrings and in turn, help ease back pain. It can be done with bent legs, or straight. If you have bend practiced this posse, here are some instructions and modifications:
- Lie on your back and keep your legs together.
- If you have tight hamstrings, you can keep your knees bent. If you have back pain, keep the bottom leg bent.
- Bring the leg to the chest and choose to keep it bent, it slowly straighten it.
- If you are not flexible enough to hold on to your leg straight, then either keep it bent or use a yoga strap.
This pose helps stretch the hips, hamstrings, and calves. It also helps to relieve backache, sciatica.
6. Standing forward bend
Stay for several breaths
Uttanasa is very commonly found in most types of yoga. It has several variations, all of which help to stretch out the lower back and calm the mind.
If you have never done this pose before, here are a few instuctions:
- Stand with your feet hip-distance apart.
- Bend your knees slightly and fold over.
- If you have lower back pain (such as a herniated disc) always keep your knees bent.
- When in the pose, bend your knees as much as you like.
- Allow your head and neck to relax.
- Allow your fingers to touch the floor (or hold on to either elbow).
This pose really does help lengthen all the muscles along the spine, something that comes a s a welcome stretch after a long day sitting or standing.
By folding forward, this pose helps release stress, calms the mind, and reduces anxiety.
7. Child’s pose
Child’s pose is a very gentle and calming yoga pose and is wonderful for those who are dealing with stress and anxiety.
By placing your forehead on the mat you trigger a calming and grounding effect on the brain. And so if your anxiety means troubled thoughts are at play on your mind, this pose my help quieten the noise.
Due to the way the hips and positioned, it helps to stretch out the hips, thighs, and chest. And so, as an added bonus, this pose is also great for people with lower back pain, as it helps to stretch out compression in the lower spine. This compression could result from sitting at a desk all day long, or even from standing.
8. Lying twist
This is a wonderful posture to help stretch the muscles in the lower back. Be as gentle or go as deep as feels right to you.
If you have never done this pose before, here are a few instuctions:
- Lie on your back and press your feet on the floor.
- Bring your knees to your chest and allow them to drop to one side.
- Bring your arms shoulder level (like in the image above) and turn your head to the opposite side of where your knees are facing.
- If you want to make this stretch more intense, place your arms n the knees and encourage them to come closer to the floor.
This pose is great for releasing any built-up tension in the lower back. Especially if we have been sitting in front of a computer screen all day.
9. Swimmer’s posture
This pose is great for strenthening the lower back. Something that is much needed for all of us, but espcially for those with lower back and sciatica pain.
- Lie on your belly.
- As long as you feel no pain, gently lift one leg off the floor.
- Then alternate with the other leg.
- Another way is to to this pose on your knees, like in the image above.
The key benefit of this pose is that it helps strengthen the lower back. And this is very important in order to maintain a healthy spine.