Video Series: Exercises for Sciatica (Caused by Herniated Disc)

Is your sciatica caused by a herniated disc? Try these sciatica exercises and stretches to help reduce back and leg pain.

What exercises help relieve sciatica caused by a herniated disc?

If your spine specialist said a herniated disc is causing your sciatic nerve pain (also known as lumbar radiculopathy), he or she may recommend 3 sciatica exercises: prone on elbows into press-up, upper back extension, and opposite arm and leg extension. These stretches may help provide sciatica relief when the root cause of symptoms is a herniated or bulging disc in your low back.

The videos above will show you how to properly do these sciatica exercises and stretches, and you can refer to the written version below for step-by-step instructions.

Prone on Elbows into Press-Up

Purpose: To ease sciatic nerve pain and pressure caused by a bulging or herniated disc in your lumbar spine (low back).

How to perform a prone on elbows into press-up:

  1. Lay on your stomach.
  2. Slowly push up until you can rest on your forearms.
  3. Beginners should hold for 30 seconds. Once you gain strength and comfort with this exercise, aim to hold the position for 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. After you’re able to comfortably hold the position for up to 5 minutes, you may then perform an extended arms version of the exercise. This involves raising your arms to the point where your elbows lock.
  5. Gently lower yourself to the floor.
  6. Repeat 10 times.

Woman in "prone on elbows" exercise positionLying face down and gently pressing your body onto your elbows/forearms may help reduce sciatic pain. Photo Source:

Upper Back Extension

Purpose: To strengthen and stabilize your low back muscles.

How to perform an upper back extension:

  1. Lay on your stomach with a small pillow or rolled towel under your hips.
  2. Rest your arms at your sides.
  3. Slowly lift your upper body up off the floor, contracting your low back muscles as you rise.
  4. Hold the lifted position for 3 seconds.
  5. Slowly lower your body to the ground.
  6. Repeat 10 times.

A special tip: Throughout this exercise, keep your movements fluid and controlled.

Trainer assisting a woman with upper back extension with her arms at her sideUpper back extensions can help strengthen and stabilize the muscles in your low back. Photo Source:

Opposite Arm and Leg Extension

Purpose: To stabilize your spine and strengthen your low back, hamstring and gluteus muscles.

How to perform an opposite arm and leg extension:

  1. Lay on your stomach with a small pillow or rolled towel under your abdomen.
  2. Extend both arms in front of you.
  3. Contract your abdominal muscles as you slowly lift both your right arm and left leg.
  4. Hold for 3 seconds. Lower your leg and arm down.
  5. Repeat with your left arm and right leg. Hold for 3 seconds.
  6. Repeat the exercise 5 to 10 times on each side.

A special tip: As you alternate arm and leg lifts, make sure you keep your abdominal muscles contracted to get the full benefit from this exercise.
Woman performing opposite arm leg extension exerciseKeep your abdominal muscles contracted during opposite arm leg extensions. Photo Source:

How can these exercises relieve sciatica caused by a herniated disc?

For sciatic nerve pain caused by a herniated disc, exercises and stretches are designed to get your pain to move up your leg and into your low back. The technical word for that is centralization, also known as localization.

With sciatica, it is actually a good thing when you have pain only in your low back. When the shooting leg pain goes away, it means you’ve relieved the pressure on your sciatic nerve and related nerve roots.

Say that you have sciatic pain that stretches all the way down to the top of your foot. As you do the exercises, you’ll know that they’re helping (and that you’re doing them correctly) if your pain moves up through your ankle and knee.

Your pain may not immediately relocate to your low back, but you should notice that your sciatica doesn’t extend as far down your leg by consistently doing these exercises and making them part of your daily routine.

What should I know before exercising with sciatica?

Before starting these sciatica stretches, please consider these 3 important recommendations:

  1. Get your doctor’s seal of approval first: Your spine specialist should clear you to perform these stretches and exercises before you start. While these activities are generally safe, get your doctor’s permission before engaging in any new physical activity.
  1. Make sure you know the cause of your sciatic nerve pain, as it will inform your exercise program. Sciatica caused by a herniated disc requires a different exercise regimen than sciatica caused by piriformis syndrome. Make sure you’ve obtained a clear-cut sciatica diagnosis to know what’s really behind your pain. Knowing that essential information will help you choose an exercise plan that provides maximum sciatica relief.
  1. Don’t push yourself too hard while exercising. You don’t want to aggravate your sciatica, so listen to your body and take things slow. If you experience any pain or other symptoms (eg, weakness, tingling, or numbness), please contact your spine specialist immediately.

Sciatic nerve pain caused by a herniated or bulging disc in your low back is a common spinal problem. Fortunately, incorporating simple exercises and stretches like those detailed here may provide sustained sciatica relief.

Continue reading…. Lumbar Herniated Disc With Sciatica