Exercises to relieve sciatica pain which focus on stretching and strengthening the muscles surrounding the sciatic nerve can be beneficial for the pain.
If you are experiencing severe pain or have underlying medical conditions, you should consult with a healthcare professional or a physical therapist before starting any new exercise regimen.
Exercises for seniors with sciatica pain focus on gentle movements that help alleviate pressure on the sciatic nerve, strengthen supportive muscles, and improve flexibility without exacerbating existing pain. Not all exercises may be suitable for seniors.
Here are some exercises that are commonly recommended for relieving sciatica pain. Gentle exercises for seniors are highlighted.
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Tips to Prepare for Exercises to Relieve Sciatica Pain
It is impossible to do ALL recommended exercises to relieve sciatica pain at one go. From personal experience, try out each exercise to determine your comfort level and identify which of the exercises you prefer to focus on.
Video or Illustrated Books for Exercises to Relieve Sciatica Pain – Which?
Doing these exercises with a video to start can be very helpful to get the pose correctly. A few videos are included in this article. However, using illustrated books that provide the same information, or exercise cards work equally well.
Whether you use video or illustrated books for your exercises to start does not matter. Decide which you prefer before you begin your exercises and use it consistently.
The piriformis muscle runs directly over the sciatic nerve and it can compress the nerve, so stretching it can help alleviate pressure on the nerve. To perform this stretch, lie on your back with both knees bent.
Cross one leg over the other, placing the ankle on the opposite knee. Then, gently pull the uncrossed leg towards your chest until you feel a stretch in your buttocks.
Seniors can perform this stretch by sitting in a chair with one ankle resting on the opposite knee, then gently leaning forward until a stretch is felt in the buttocks. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Seated Spinal Twist
While sitting on a chair, seniors can gently twist their upper body to one side, using the opposite hand to hold onto the chair for support. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds, then repeat on the other side. This stretch helps improve spinal mobility and relieve tension on the sciatic nerve.
Tight hamstrings can exacerbate sciatic nerve pain, so stretching them regularly can be helpful. You can perform a hamstring stretch by lying on your back with one leg extended and the other leg bent.
Use a towel or strap to gently pull the extended leg towards you, keeping your knee slightly bent, until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh.
Seniors can perform a hamstring stretch by sitting on the edge of a chair and extending one leg straight out in front, with the heel resting on the ground and the toes pointing up.
Slowly lean forward from the hips until a stretch is felt in the back of the thigh. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Lower Back Stretch
Stretching the muscles of the lower back can help relieve tension and pressure on the sciatic nerve. One way to stretch the lower back is to lie on your back and gently pull both knees towards your chest, holding for 15-30 seconds.
For seniors, stand with your body and back as straight as possible. Take your thumbs and press right above the beltline, pressing right into the muscles right off to the side of the spine. Do not press directly over the spine. Press gently and maintain that position.
Keep the lower hips and pelvis locked and bend backward with the upper body so that your shoulders also bend backwards. The more you bend the lower back backwards, you should feel a deep stretch in the lower back. Only go to the point where you feel a comfortable stretch.
If you feel more pain going down, back off slightly. Take controlled breaths and let out as much tension as you can for 30 seconds. Repeat several times. See the video below.
Pelvic tilts help strengthen the muscles of the lower back and abdomen, providing support to the spine and reducing pressure on the sciatic nerve. Seniors can perform pelvic tilts while lying on their back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Tighten your abdominal muscles and gently tilt your pelvis upward, flattening the lower back against the floor. Hold for a few seconds before releasing.
Bridges help strengthen the muscles of the lower back, buttocks, and core, which can help alleviate sciatica pain. To perform a bridge, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips towards the ceiling, keeping your shoulders, hips, and knees in a straight line. Hold for a few seconds, then lower back down.
Low-impact exercises like walking can help improve circulation and reduce inflammation, which can contribute to sciatica pain relief thereby providing relief. Start with short walks and gradually increase the duration as tolerated.
Seniors should aim to walk for at least 30 minutes most days of the week, adjusting the intensity and duration as needed based on their comfort level.
Exercising in water provides gentle resistance and support, making it an ideal option for seniors with sciatica pain. Water aerobics classes often include exercises that target the core muscles, improve flexibility, and promote overall relaxation.
Certain yoga poses and stretches can help stretch and strengthen the muscles surrounding the sciatic nerve, providing relief from pain. Seniors should focus on gentle, beginner-level yoga poses that emphasize proper alignment and breath awareness.
Conclusion – Exercises to Relieve Sciatica Pain
Seniors with sciatica pain should consult with a healthcare professional or physical therapist before starting any new exercise regimen. They can provide personalized guidance and recommendations based on individual needs and limitations. Additionally, seniors should listen to their bodies and avoid any exercises that worsen their symptoms.
Remember to listen to your body and avoid any exercises that worsen your pain. If you experience persistent or severe sciatica pain, consult your healthcare professional for personalized guidance and alternative treatment options.
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Exercises for sciatica problems – NHS (2023) https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/strength-and-flexibility-exercises/exercises-sciatica-problems/