How do you know when you have sciatic nerve pain!
If you feel pain from your lower back to behind the thighs spreading down below your knees, you might be suffering from sciatica. Sciatica can be understood as the pain and sometimes numbness as well as weakness which spreads along the sciatic nerve.
Now what is this sciatic nerve? Let’s understand it to know sciatica pain better.
What is Sciatic Nerve?
Sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body. It runs from both the sides of your lower spine through deep in your rear and back of the thigh. It then goes down to the foot and thus connects your spinal cord with your leg and foot muscles.
Sciatic nerve actually comprise of five nerves. These five nerves form a group on the front surface of piriformis muscle which lies in the rear. These five nerves then become one large nerve called sciatic nerve.
Sciatic nerve works to supply sensation and strength to your leg. It also has a role in the reflexes of the leg. When sciatic nerve gets damaged, you can face weakness of muscles as well as numbness or tingling in the leg, ankle, foot, and sometimes toes too.
Sciatic Notch and Piriformis Muscle Syndrome
When talking about sciatic nerve, it is apt to mention the sciatic notch and piriformis muscle too. There are, in fact, two sciatic notch, greater sciatic notch and lesser sciatic notch. The greater sciatic notch is the large, deep notch situated on the posterior margin of the ischium which forms the lower and back part of the hip bone. This greater sciatic notch gives passage to the piriformis muscle and many other vessels, nerves and muscles on their course from the pelvis to the gluteal region. Of these, piriformis muscle is of great importance when trying to understand sciatic nerve pain.
The piriformis muscle is situated deep in the hip and it runs in close proximity to the sciatic nerve. When this piriformis muscle gets tight or swollen, it leads to irritation of the sciatic nerve, which in turn leads to a pain resembling to sciatica pain, tingling and numbness. This is sometimes called Piriformis Syndrome. To relieve such sciatica-like pain, piriformis muscle stretches need to be done. We will discuss such Piriformis stretches when we learn about sciatic nerve stretches to relieve sciatic nerve pain.
Now that we know what sciatic nerve is, let’s know more about sciatica and its causes, symptoms and remedies.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica can be defined as the pain in your lower extremity caused by a pinched sciatic nerve in the lower back. It is that pain which affects your back, hip, and outer side of your leg from the buttock down to your foot. It is usually felt in one leg and the pain is quite intolerable sometimes.
What are the Causes of Sciatica Pain?
Sciatica pain is caused due to irritation of the roots of the lower lumbar and lumbosacral spine. Usually when the sciatic nerve becomes pinched it gives rise to sciatica pain. Below are the causes for such pinched sciatic nerve.
Herniated or bulging disk in the spine.
Overgrowth of bone on the vertebrae.
Lumbar spinal stenosis which may be understood as narrowing down of the spinal canal in the lower back.
Degenerative disc disease. It may be understood as degeneration of at least one of the inter-vertebral discs of the spinal column. Discs act as cushions between the vertebrae.
Spondylolisthesis. It is a condition where one vertebra slips forward over another vertebra giving rise to sciatica.
Sciatic nerve pain in pregnancy is also common.
Tumor can also lead to sciatica though it is a rare occurrence.
Sometimes diseases like diabetes also damage the sciatic nerve giving way to sciatica pain.
Other minor causes of sciatica may include being overweight, not exercising, wearing high heels, sleeping on a very soft mattress etc. In fact, these are not the direct causes of sciatica pain but may worsen the condition of sciatica lower back pain.
Sciatic Nerve Pain Symptoms
Usually, only one side of the body is affected by the sciatic nerve pain. However, this pain essentially radiates from the lower spine to the buttock and down the back of the leg. The common symptoms of sciatica pain are as below.

Pain in the back, especially lower back or leg which worsens due to prolonged sitting.
Burning or tingling sensation in the leg. It can be mild ache to a sharp pain for different people. Burning sensation is also not felt by everyone.
Weakness and/or numbness in the leg or foot.
Difficulty in moving the leg or foot.
Constant pain on one side of your back
Sometimes it feels like a jolt or an electric shock
Some people may have pain in one part of the leg and numbness in another.
If it is a mild pain, it will go away in some time. However, if the pain lasts for more than a week or becomes severe getting worse day by day, then you should consider seeing your doctor. Severe symptoms of sciatica also include sudden, severe pain in your low back or leg along with numbness or muscle weakness there. If so, consult your physician. If you face trouble in controlling your bowels or bladder, you should immediately seek medical attention.
What Treatment is Given for Sciatica by Doctor?
Initially, doctors prescribe medicines to suppress your pain in the sciatic nerve and the affected areas. Therefore, you can expect to get anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, narcotics and even tricyclic antidepressants and anti-seizure drugs.
Sometimes, sciatic nerve block is also done for diagnosis and treatment of your sciatic nerve pain. For this, a mixture of a local anesthetic and steroid is injected. After the injection is administered, you may feel as if your pain has reduced a lot. This is due to the local anesthetic. Once the effect of this anesthetic wears off, you may feel increased pain for a few days. It is after these few days that your condition begins to improve.
After the initial treatment for pain, your doctor may prescribe a rehabilitation program which may include exercises to correct your posture and also to strengthen your muscles.
Surgery is done in rare cases of sciatic nerve pain. Surgery is usually done only when the pinched sciatic nerve leads to significant weakness, bowel or bladder incontinence. It may also be done when all the other treatments fail to contain your pain and it worsens continuously. Surgeons remove the bone spur or the portion of herniated disk that might be pressing on the pinched sciatic nerve.
Remedies to Get Rid of Sciatic Nerve Pain
Acupuncture and exercises can give you considerable relief from sciatic nerve pain.
Sciatic Nerve Acupuncture
When you decide to do acupuncture for sciatic nerve pain, you should always go to an expert because doing it yourself may lead to further complications. When you go to an acupuncture expert, he will insert needles into your skin at specific points. Acupuncture helps reprogram the muscles to stay relaxed. It actually makes your body capable of healing itself. However, it is a specialized subject and should be get done by a licensed acupuncturist. What you can do to help yourself is to perform acupressure at the points where it is most useful to relieve sciatica pain.
How to do Acupressure for Sciatic Pain Relief
Sciatic nerve relief is what you want when you experience the extreme pain due to sciatica. Acupressure can give you this relief. Acupressure can be understood as an alternative medicine technique just like acupuncture. The difference is just in the means of applying pressure on the points over your body. While acupuncture uses needles, acupressure uses physical pressure over the body points for clearing the blockages that might be causing pain and other discomforts in your body. Pressure can be applied by hands, elbow, or other devices. For example, the acupressure technique for sciatic nerve relief that you are going to read below can be done with your fists or with the help of a tennis ball.
Get this:
Tennis ball (optional)- 1
Do this:
Lie straight on your back.
Make fists with your palms.
Place both your fists underneath your lower back with the knuckles pressing against your lower back muscles.
Hold the position for a minute.
Now roll over on to your side, the one which has pain.
Place your fist or a tennis ball underneath the side of your buttock. This point is the acupressure point GB 30 and is one of the major points for sciatic nerve relief.
When you place your fist or a tennis ball underneath this point GB 30, it should hurt you great at this point. It is essential to relieve your sciatic nerve.
While holding this position, close your eyes and breathe deeply for few minutes.
As you feel the soreness reducing at the point, readjust your fist or the ball to place pressure on the other tight points of the area.
After doing this for 1-2 minutes at each point, move to put pressure on other points of your leg to get relief from painful sciatic nerve.
Use your hands and fingers to put pressure on a point outside of your lower leg, just below and in front of the head of the fibula. Fibula or the calf bone is the outer and usually the smaller one of the two bones between the knee and the ankle. Its head is situated below the level of the knee joint. It is the GB 34 acupressure point, a muscle relaxant point.
Let the pressure be on this GB 34 point for few minutes.
Now put pressure on another point, the GB 40 point. It is located in the large hollow directly in front of the outer anklebone. Press this point hard for few minutes.
Then go to another point, the GB 41 point. It is situated between the 4th and 5th metatarsal bones, just below the place where the bones begin to narrow on the top of the foot. Metatarsal bones are the group of five long bones in the foot. They are numbered from the side of the great toe- first, second, third, fourth and fifth metatarsal bone. You need to put pressure between the fourth and fifth metatarsal bones for 1-2 minutes.
Sciatic Nerve Pain Exercises
Exercises are a must to keep your back muscles and spine strong enough to support your back. When you don’t exercise or move your body enough, the muscles get weakened. This weakening of muscles leads to back injury and strain, which then causes pain. Exercising also keeps your spinal discs healthy. If you don’t move them enough, they will not be able to circulate fluids as well as nutrients that help them stay healthy and prevent pressure on the sciatic nerve.
The sciatic pain exercises that are mentioned here strengthen your abdominal and back muscles so that you are able to get good support for your back and relieve back pain due to sciatic nerve. These can be called strengthening exercises for sciatic pain. You should also do some stretching exercises to release your tight muscles and make them flexible. You will also know certain sciatic nerve stretches in this article to help yourself get relieved from sciatic pain. However, always do exercises after consulting your doctor. He may also suggest you some specific sciatic nerve exercises based on the diagnosis of your condition.
General Guidelines for Sciatic Nerve Exercises
Don’t begin exercising when you are experiencing a sciatic pain flare up or acute back pain episode. First consult your physician or a spine specialist before starting exercises.
Make exercising your habit. Do these exercises daily and not just till the time you relieve your pain. If you can’t do them daily, at least do these exercises 4 days a week. This will prevent any future flare up.
Exercises to Strengthen Abdominal Muscles
1. Pelvic Tilt
Lie on your back on the floor.
Bend your knees by bringing your feet a little towards your hips.
Keep your feet parallel and arms to your side
Tighten your lower abdominal muscles by pulling your navel and lower back toward the floor in an attempt to flatten your back. Do not use your buttocks or leg muscles.
Hold this position for five seconds
Repeat for 5-10 times.
2. Curl your Trunk
Lie on the floor, on your back.
Bend your knees by bringing your feet towards your hips.
Keep your arms crossed on your chest.
Now using your upper abdominal muscles, lift your body trunk slightly off the floor.
Do not raise the head or neck; you need to raise only your chest to about 15 degrees.
Hold the position for 5 seconds
Lower your trunk slowly to the floor.
Repeat 5-10 times.
3. Lift your Legs under Water
Stand inside swimming pool, close to its side wall holding the edge with your hand.
Raise one of your legs slowly to the front. Keep it straight.
Now lower down slowly to bring it to its starting position.
Repeat with the other leg.
Do five times each with both the legs.
4. Sit-ups with Exercise Balls
Take an exercise ball.
Sit on this ball while keeping feet flat on the floor and arms straight overhead.
Now lean back, flexing at your hips and pointing your toes towards the ground.
Hold the position for 5 seconds
Now sit up slowly while bringing your heels back to the ground.
Repeat 5-10 times.
Sciatic Nerve Stretches to Strengthen Back Muscles
As you now know, the sciatic nerve runs from your back of the pelvis, through your buttocks, down to both legs and feet. These sciatic nerve stretches will help mobilize your sciatic nerve and will also increase the flexibility of your lower back. Initially, remain gentle to yourself and move only as far as you can, without feeling pain. Gradually you will be able to stretch more with practice. Do these stretches at least once a day.
1. Knee to Chest Leg Stretch
Get this:
Mat (optional)
Small flat cushion- 1
Do this:

Lie on your back on the floor or on the mat.
Keep the cushion under your head.
Bend your knees.
Keep your feet straight on the floor. They should be at hip-width distance.
Relax your upper body and keep your chin gently tucked in.
Now bend one of your knees upwards and bring it towards your chest.
Hold the knee with both of your hands.
Slowly increase this stretch as per your comfort level, as much as you can.
Hold the position for about half a minute while you breathe deeply.
Bring back the leg to its original position.
Repeat with the other leg.
Do three times with both the legs.
2. Stretch to Mobilize Sciatic Nerve and Hamstrings
Get this:
Mat (optional)
Small flat cushion- 1
Do this:
Lie on your back on the floor or on the mat.
Keep the cushion under your head.
Bend your knees.
Keep your feet straight on the floor. They should be at hip-width distance.
Relax your upper body and keep your chin gently tucked in.
Now bend one of your knees up towards your chest.
Hold your hamstring below the knee using both your hands.
Straighten your knee slowly while you bring your foot towards your upper body.
Do not press your lower back down into the floor while you are stretching your leg.
Also stretch only as far as you can. Stop immediately if your feel pain or any other sensation like tingling or numbness.
Hold the position for 30 seconds. Keep on breathing deeply all this while.
Now bend the knee again and return to your starting position.
Repeat with the other leg.
Do 2-3 times with both the legs.
3. Back Stretch
Lie down straight on your stomach with toes touching the ground.
Keep your hands close to your chest, palms facing downwards close to your face.
Raise your face and chest to prop yourself on your elbows.
While keeping your neck long (don’t bend it backwards though), arch your back up by pushing down on your hands.
Stretch only till you are comfortable.
Your body from your lower abdomen will remain grounded all the time.
You will feel a gentle stretch in your stomach muscles as you arch up like this.
Hold for about 5-10 seconds.
Return to your starting position.
Repeat 8-10 times.
4. Hamstring Stretch
Get this:
A step or a low stool
Do this:
Stand straight.
Raise one of your legs on the step or the stool. Keep the leg straight.
Your heels will touch the step and toes would point straight up.
Now lean forward while keeping your back straight. Rest your hands on the knee of stretched leg
Hold the position for 30 seconds while breathing deeply.
Now repeat with the other leg.
Repeat 2-3 times with both your legs.
5. Gluteal Stretch for Buttocks
Get this:
Mat (optional)
Small flat cushion- 1
Towel (optional)
Do this:
Lie on your back on the floor or on the mat.
Keep the cushion under your head.
Bend your left leg.
Take your right foot up and place it over your left thigh.
Hold your left thigh and pull it towards yourself. If you cannot do so, use a towel around your thigh to pull it.
Do not lift your buttock, keep your tailbone touched to the floor and your hips straight. Keep your pelvis straight.
You will feel a stretch in your right buttock.
Hold for 30 seconds while breathing deeply.
Repeat with the right leg.
Do 2-3 times with both the legs.
This move stretches and helps lengthen your piriformis muscle.
Below are some more piriformis stretches. If you remember, sometimes you may feel sciatic nerve pain due to tightened and swollen piriformis muscle.
6. Piriformis Muscle Stretch to relieve Sciatic Pain
Lie on your back.
Bend both the knees.
Feet should be flat on the floor.
Raise the right knee up towards the chest.
Hold this knee with your left hand and pull it towards your left shoulder as far as you can.
Hold for 30 seconds.
Return to starting position.
Repeat with the left leg.
Do 2-3 times with both the legs.
When you do these exercises and stretches regularly on a daily basis, you will not only relieve but also prevent sciatic nerve pain.

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How do you know when you have sciatic nerve pain! If you feel pain from your lower back to behind the thighs spreading down below your knees, you might be suffering from sciatica. Sciatica can be understood as the pain and sometimes numbness as well as weakness which spreads along...