6 Best Sciatica Stretches and Exercises

Stretches for sciatica to improve your hip and buttocks flexibility and relieve tight sciatic nerve pain.

by Brad Walker | First Published May 23, 2019 | Updated October 17, 2019
Sciatica stretches are important for the flexibility and range of motion of the hip and buttocks muscles. Good flexibility around the sciatic nerve allows for unrestricted, pain free movement of the hip and buttocks.

Activities that Benefit from Sciatica Stretches

Sports and activities that benefit from the sciatica stretches below include: Running, Walking, Hiking, Backpacking, Mountaineering, Orienteering and Race Walking. Cycling, Ice Hockey, Ice Skating, Roller Skating and Inline Skating. Snow Skiing, Water Skiing and Surfing. Martial Arts, Wrestling and any sport that involves jumping or explosive movement.

Running sports like Football, Soccer, Gridiron, Field Hockey, Basketball and Rugby also benefit from regular sciatic nerve stretches.

Sciatica stretches and exercises

Watch the Video for a Summary of This Article

Transcript from video (click to open)

Good flexibility around the sciatic nerve allows for unrestricted, pain-free movement of the hip and buttocks. These stretches are especially important for those suffering with sciatica pain. In this video, we share information about the sciatic nerve, helpful stretches, and valuable resources to improve your flexibility and range of motion — keep watching!

MUSCLES & THE SCIATIC NERVE
While performing the stretches for sciatica below there are a number of muscles within the hip and buttocks that are stretched. Some of the muscles involved when stretching include the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus (aka the buttocks). Muscle groups can also include the Gemellus superior and inferior or “deep hip”. In this deep hip area, too, is the Piriformis, and Quadratus femoris. Let’s just say you get an excellent stretch in your butt and hip area.

SCIATICA STRETCHING SAFETY
As with all athletic activities, there are precautions to ensure that they are safe; stretching is no exception. Stretching can be harmful if done incorrectly. Here are a few things we recommend to stay safe when stretching to relieve sciatica pain. First, Don’t hold your breath. Holding your breath can lead to tension in the muscles and entire body. The deeper you breathe, the more relaxed you are, and the better you will be able to stretch. Another safety tip we have is to never force a stretch beyond the point of mild discomfort. Stretching tight muscles will be uncomfortable, but you should never push to the point of pain. Move into the stretch until you feel a comfortable tension and hold the stretch there. Finally, we suggest that just like any physical activity, consistency is key. Stretching for a few minutes each day is preferable to stretching only once a week for a longer time.

SIMPLE SCIATICA STRETCHES
Want to begin stretching your sciatica at home? Try this! Slowly move into the stretch position until you feel a tension of about 7 out of 10. If you feel pain or discomfort you’ve pushed the stretch too far; back out of the stretch immediately. Hold the stretch position for 20 to 30 seconds while relaxing and breathing deeply. Come out of the stretch carefully and perform the stretch on the opposite side if necessary. Repeat 2 or 3 times. There are also variations you can try including the “Sitting Rotational Sciatica Stretch” in which you sit with one leg crossed and your other leg behind your buttocks then lean your whole body towards the leg that is behind your buttocks. As above, hold this stretch for about 20 to 30 seconds and repeat at least 2 to 3 times on each side. Another one you can try is the “Sitting Cross-legged Sciatica Stretch”. With this one, you’ll sit cross legged and keep your back straight. Then gently lean forward. Make the emphasis of this stretch keeping your back straight, rather than trying to lean too far forward. Hold the stretch position for a minimum of 20 seconds. There are several other variations you can do of these sciatica stretches. We have a couple of videos on our site, linked in the description if you want to try those. In the meantime, we have this to ask…

Do you want to learn how to stretch properly and get a deeper, more targeted stretch? If so, you’ll want to check out our ultimate guide to stretching and flexibility. This guide covers everything you need to get rid of injuries, aches and pains with ease, and improve your flexibility and mobility. It also covers the stretching routines you can do to get rid of stiff, tight muscles and joints, improve your sporting performance, and more! Visit our site to learn about this awesome resource and to explore other, helpful guides on stretching. Thanks for watching, give this video a like, leave a comment, and subscribe if you found it helpful and want more!

Muscles that affect the Sciatic Nerve

While performing the stretches for sciatica below there are a number of muscles within the hip and buttocks that are stretched. Below is a comprehensive list of the anatomical muscle names involved in the following sciatica stretches.

  • Gluteus maximus, medius and minimus (Buttocks);
  • Gemellus superior and inferior (Deep hip);
  • Piriformis (Deep hip);
  • Quadratus femoris (Deep hip); and
  • Obturator internus and externus (Deep hip).

Sciatica Stretching Safety Guidelines

As with all athletic activities there are precautions to ensure that they are safe; stretching is no exception. Stretching can be harmful if done incorrectly, so it is important that the following guidelines be adhered to, both for safety and for maximizing the benefits of the stretches below.

  • Breathe. Don’t hold your breath. Holding your breath can lead to tension in the muscles and entire body. The deeper you breathe, the more relaxed you are, and the better you will be able to stretch.
  • Never force a stretch beyond the point of mild discomfort. Stretching tight muscles will be uncomfortable, but you should never push to the point of pain. Move into the stretch until you feel a comfortable tension and hold the stretch there.
  • Be consistent. Just like any physical activity, consistency is key. Stretching for a few minutes each day is preferable to stretching only once a week for a longer time.
  • Wear loose comfortable clothing. It’s obviously very difficult to stretch if your clothes are tight and restrict movement.

Sample Sciatica Stretches

Slowly move into the stretch position until you feel a tension of about 7 out of 10. If you feel pain or discomfort you’ve pushed the stretch too far; back out of the stretch immediately. Hold the stretch position for 20 to 30 seconds while relaxing and breathing deeply. Come out of the stretch carefully and perform the stretch on the opposite side if necessary. Repeat 2 or 3 times.

Standing Leg-tuck Sciatica Stretch
Standing Leg-tuck Sciatica Stretch: Stand beside a chair or table and place the foot furthest from the object onto the object. Relax your leg, lean forward and bend your other leg, lowering yourself towards the ground. Hold this stretch for about 20 to 30 seconds and repeat at least 2 to 3 times on each side.
Sitting Rotational Sciatica Stretch
Sitting Rotational Sciatica Stretch: Sit with one leg crossed and your other leg behind your buttocks then lean your whole body towards the leg that is behind your buttocks. As above, hold this stretch for about 20 to 30 seconds and repeat at least 2 to 3 times on each side.

Sample Sciatica Stretching Videos

Below you’ll find a few good stretches for the muscles around your sciatic nerve. But don’t rely on just a few stretches; it’s important to do a range of stretches for the hips, buttocks, groin and lower back. Please be careful, if you haven’t stretched these muscles before some of them may put a lot of stress on the sciatic nerve. Warm-up first, then proceed in a slow and gentle way.

Sitting Knee-to-chest Sciatica Stretch (1:22) Sit with one leg straight and the other leg crossed over your knee. Pull the raised knee towards your opposite shoulder while keeping your back straight and your shoulders facing forward. Keeping your back straight and your shoulders facing forward will ensure that your buttocks get the maximum benefit from this stretch. Resist the temptation to rotate your shoulders towards your knee. Hold the stretch position for a minimum of 20 seconds and then repeat on the opposite side.

Sitting Foot-to-chest Sciatica Stretch (1:22) Sit with one leg straight and hold onto your other ankle. Pull it directly towards your chest. Use your hands and arms to regulate the intensity of this stretch. The closer you pull your foot to your chest, the more intense the stretch. Hold the stretch position for a minimum of 20 seconds and then repeat on the opposite side.

Sitting Cross-legged Sciatica Stretch (1:05) Sit cross legged and keep your back straight. Then gently lean forward. Make the emphasis of this stretch keeping your back straight, rather than trying to lean too far forward. Hold the stretch position for a minimum of 20 seconds.

Cross-over Sciatica Stretch (1:27) Lie on your back and cross one leg over the other. Bring your foot up to your opposite knee and with your opposite arm pull your raised knee towards the ground. Keep your shoulders on the ground and concentrate on pulling your raised knee to the ground, not up towards your chest. Hold the stretch position for a minimum of 20 seconds and then repeat on the opposite side.

Get more of the best Sciatica Stretches here

While the recommendations on this page are a good place to start, you'll get a lot more benefit when you add the right stretches to your training program. With the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility you'll...

  • The Stretching Handbook, DVD & CD-ROMDo away with stiff, tight muscles and joints;
  • Improve your freedom of movement;
  • Get rid of injuries, aches and pains;
  • Improve your sporting performance; and
  • Take your flexibility to the next level.

You'll get 135 clear photographs and 44 video demonstrations of unique stretches for every major muscle groups in your body. Plus, the DVD includes 3 customized sets of stretches (8 minutes each) for the Upper Body; the Lower Body; and the Neck, Back & Core. And the Handbook will show you, step-by-step, how to perform each stretch correctly and safely. Plus, you'll also learn the 7 critical rules for safe stretching; the benefits of flexibility; and how to stretch properly.

If you want to improve your flexibility and loosen up stiff, tight muscles fast, check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility for yourself.

Research and References

Brad Walker - AKA The Stretch CoachAbout the Author: Brad Walker is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon (author page) has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 1,000's of verified customer reviews. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.

Disclaimer: The health and fitness information presented on this website is intended as an educational resource and is not intended as a substitute for proper medical advice. Please consult your physician or physical therapist before performing any of the exercises described on this website, particularly if you are pregnant, elderly or have any chronic or recurring muscle or joint pain.