Exercises to Strengthen the Lower Back and Sciatic Nerve
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Exercises to Strengthen the Lower Back and Sciatic Nerve

These tips and exercises will help you heal your lower back and sciatic nerve and prevent you from hurting your lower back again.

Your lower back supports your upper back, your buttocks and your legs. The sciatic nerve starts in the lower back and runs down your legs. It is the longest and widest single nerve in the body. This nerve supplies almost the whole skin of the leg, the muscles of the back of the thigh, and those of the leg, ankle and foot.

Sciatica is a set of symptoms, not a diagnosis, which means it does not explain the cause of the pain. If this happens to you, you need to get a specific reason for this problem from a doctor or chiropractor.

I’ve heard of baseball players hurting their back and they can’t play, just because they sneezed. I wondered about that until at age 30 I hurt mine to the point I couldn’t even walk just because I sneezed while sitting in an awkward position. The pain was terrible, all of the muscles of that leg had atrophied and I had no feeling whatsoever in the back of my leg, completely numb.

If you hurt your sciatic nerve

When this happened, the pain was right at the left side of my lower back, where the back meets the hip. For a couple of days I just lay on the couch using a heating pad and aspirin. Someone gave me the name of her chiropractor and I called him. He told me not to use the heating pad but to use ice. That helped the pain for a while. Though the pain was still extreme and I still couldn’t walk. I went to the chiropractor and he did the aligning, popping and explained everything about what happened to me. Apparently it can start by being out of alignment to begin with and that sneeze in the awkward position finally did it. The chiropractor would not give me any pain medication and told me not to take aspirin unless the pain became unbearable, that aspirin just masks the pain and can prolong the healing. So for the next couple of days I relaxed using ice packs, it’s also a good idea to take a warm bath and then again use the ice packs. After that it was back to him for more treatment and I had to slowly learn to do exercises and I had to practice walking the right way again. Since the sciatic nerve controls the leg, ankle and foot, your foot might have a tendency to not work right.

Exercises

You should of course check with your doctor if this happens, or before exercising. These exercises will help you heal your back and the muscles of your back and leg if you’ve injured your sciatic nerve. If you haven’t then these will strengthen that area possibly preventing an injury to your lower back.

Stretching

You need to loosen up and warm up. While stretching, it is important to never bounce when you stretch. Just slowly stretch and hold it. Nothing about stretching should be fast, and remember to breath in and out slowly. I will try and explain these as simply as I can so that it doesn’t sound like a game of Twister.

  • Lie on your back, bend the knee towards the chest as close to the chest as you comfortably can, grasp the knee but don’t pull it. Repeat with the other leg.
  • Lie on your back, fold your arms over your chest, feet flat on the floor. Lift your buttocks off the floor, hold for a second and slowly lower back down.
  • Lie on your stomach, with your forearms raise yourself up and hold. You will be raising just your upper body, arching your back in a stretch.
  • On your hands and knees, sit back so your buttocks are touching your heels, slowly move your arms across the floor until your forehead is touching the ground.
  • Hamstring stretch, hands against the wall, with one leg behind you stretching the hamstring, keep the other knee bent with no stretching on it.

Sciatic Nerve Exercises – Do as many reps as comfortable

  • Butt lift: Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Your hands can be folded across your chest or straight out. But don’t use your hands to help lift you up. Using your legs, lift your buttocks up to a comfortable level, and back down and repeat a number of times.
  • Stomach crunches, strengthening the abdominal muscles is also important to the lower back. Lay on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Arms folded across your chest. Raise your upper body up using your stomach muscles. Back down and repeat. When you raise up, you don’t have to raise very far at all.
  • Knee lifts, lay on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor arms out or folded, whichever is more comfortable. Keeping your knees bent, lift both legs up towards your chest and back down and repeat.
  • Lie on your side, knees bent and hips and shoulders aligned. Raise the top knee keeping it bent and press your heels together. This helps the hips and pelvis region.
  • For the calves. At an angle, both hands on a wall. Lift up on the balls of your feet and back down. Repeat as many times as you can. This will strengthen the calf muscles that might have diminished after a sciatic nerve injury.
  • Ankles. Standing and supporting yourself, lift one foot off the ground. Move your foot outward and inward and continue and repeat. For example, move your right foot outward to the right at the ankle.

Other tips

  • If you are overweight, that can hurt your lower back.
  • Walking is great to tone the leg muscles and get the circulation going.
  • If you go to a chiropractor, when you get home, lie down and relax for a while, this gives the back a chance to rest after having your spine aligned again.

Sam Montana © 14 January 2009

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Comments (14)

Hurting the back is scary since it can happen so easily and once it does it just messes up your whole life. Sneezing wrong can do it, as can other simple things. A chiropractor told me that the most common ways he has seen people really hurt their back was sneezing or coughing while in an awkward position and the other way is reaching for the toilet paper wrong. That’s what he told me. When you feel a sneeze coming on, it’s best to stand and lean forward so your back isn’t suddenly jerked in an odd movement. When you think about sitting and suddenly you sneeze, the lower back can be thrown forward. Hopefully by doing exercises and stretching, the back, legs and buttocks will be strong and help support the back so the back doesn’t have to do all the work.

Good morning Sam, thanks for this piece. I have sciatic nerve issues as well. Mine was the result of being catapulted out of a rolling vehicle, not to mention one too many falls from horses over the years. One day, to top it all off nicely, I sneezed and my tailblone broke. Yikes! These things happen so easily. Excellent article here......

Ouch, I will remember that the next time I sneeze. Once the sciatic nerve has been hurt, I think a person has to be aware of it the rest of their lives. Be aware of moving wrong and sneezing. That's why the exercises are important to keep the area strong and flexible

I'm printing this one, and I hope I can find someplace where I'll remember it's there and keep going back to it. I've been going to the gym for several months, but I haven't understood what's particularly good for the lower back. Of course, I can do these at home, too, and then work at the gym more knowledgeably. Thanks very much.

Hi David, I’m glad the article helps you. The lower back can be a real pain. But these exercises can keep it strong, which helps it from being a pain. It’s amazing how important toned and strong muscles in the buttocks, lower back, legs and stomach are to the lower back…..One thing though, if you ever do start feeling sharp pains in that sciatic area, exercises could make it worse at that time. I do believe in going to a good chiropractor. If you are “uneven”, it could make things worse to exercise while being uneven. Its best to be aligned and then go back to working out…….A chiropractor will have you lay on your stomach and out your feet together, at least that’s how mine found I was uneven. I personally don’t think a chiropractor is doing the proper job if he prescribes pain pills for the pain without aligning your back. And I have heard of many of these chiropractors doing that.

Jen

is it possible to have pain during a bowel movement after the nerve has been hit?

You can have pain in the sciatic nerve doing anything after it has been hurt. Walking and sleeping can even be difficult.

I sometimes experience pain the sciatic nerve. Need some exercise..thanks.

Brilliant Sam, I have developed Sciatica this last week, the pain is unreal, your piece was the best advice that I have read on the net so far. Thankyou.

Toni Star

Very helpful. Many thanks!

Toni

David Glenn Short

I am so glad to have read this page, because it as done more for me then what my doctor has. He had me on meloxicam and he may has will have kick my butt, because it did nothing for me, but these exercises made me feel so much better.

gene wright

I have been suffering from sciatica for about 3 months now. Been to the chiropractor for about 2 months and nothing is working. Have been taking pain meds, which I don't like, and has really done nothing for my situation. Yea it helps to mask the pain but I want more than that.I found out being more active in my situation actually is helping me. So I ran across this web site and hope it will help me. Some stuff the chiro had me do but some of it I had no idea. So I will try it. Thank you and anyother suggestions would be appreciated.

Gene, it took me about 6 months to even walk properly again without my left foot dragging. It was the left sciatic nerve I hurt. My chiropractor refused to give me any pain meds and even told me not to take aspirin unless I was really in pain. Has your doctor given you any exercises to do. The ones I listed here helped some, but you have to continue them to build up the stomach, back, buttocks and legs. A local baseball player here has been hampered for years with sciatica and this year he said that doing exercises to build up your core has helped. Just never overdo it with the exercises. When you are in pain, ice can really help. Later on you can alternate between ice and heat. You might try looking for another chiropractor who is more into healing than giving pain meds.

Great article and comments. I began to have severe sciatic pain about 4 years ago. The first chiropractor I went to did nothing at all that was useful. Massage therapy really helped so much but nothing lasting. Then I found another chiropractor who was really helpful with the pain but then finally I met a chiropractor who specializes in upper cervical treatments (have an article here at Factoidz about that kind of treatment). It did take a few weeks and monthly maintenance treatment but this chiropractor has come as close to curing the problem as I think I will ever get. Here is a directory of these types of chiropractors: http://www.upcspine.com/prac2.asp?rid=4

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