YogaAndBackCare - Sciatica


Sciatica is a term used when the sciatic nerve is being compressed. How you deal with the pain depends on where the nerve is being compressed.

You have two options to start with.

1. See your doctor.

2. See your chiropractor.

If you are into self help, you may well chose to go to a chiropractor first. If the chiropractor is reputable s/he should know enough about back conditions to know whether you ought also to seek your doctor's advice.

It can help to have an MRI scan because then you know exactly what the problem is.

If you have trapped your nerve in your lumbar region, go straight to the RICE method, REST, ICE, COMPRESS and ELEVATE although of course elevation is going to be impossible!

Rest. Yes, you are allowed to lie there with an icepack behind your back but don't think of this as total rest doing nothing.

You need to walk round.

Even if you can only manage very small steps and you can't stand upright properly, give yourself several sessions every day, walking round and round. Walking a figure of eight is good. Walking up and down a landing is fine and walking the dog is even better ( provided the dog is very well-behaved and doesn't pull on the lead)

Ice is wonderful. You can buy Icepacks and it's a good idea to have two, one that you are using and one that is chilling. Place the icepack behind your back.

Compression you can achieve this, by squeezing your buttocks and also by pulling in your tummy muscles.

Elevation This may have to wait until your sciatic pain has started to abate.

Some sciatic pain can be helped by stretching but if the nerve is trapped, stretching may well make things worse. So be warned and be very careful!

You need to identify where your pain is and then see if you can work out where the sciatic nerve is being compressed.

If it is being compressed by a tight piriformis muscle, stretching the piriformis muscle will bring relief.

If the nerve is being compressed by the spine, give yourself a rest from practising hatha yoga and get help.


When you are in the acute stage of pain, walking may be the only thing you can reasonably do. Before you try any of these exercises, please make sure you have walked around enough to warm up. You will already have discovered the pain is often worse first thing in the morning. Do not try these exercises while you are in that stage of early morning pain. You must wait until you have walked around and warmed up a bit.

With older yoga students, I often take twenty minutes to warm them up before doing postures. Take the same care with yourself. Warm up first.

On the other hand you may find some yoga poses help.

If you can kneel, you may find staying in the Hero pose takes the pressure of your leg.

You can also try the Child pose. Do not worry if you can only reach forward a very small way. Do think about the hip hinge, you need to be stretching your back with it in neutral spine position.

To keep the leg movement working, sit on a chair, use lots of cushions if you feel you need them.

Stage 1. Allow yourself to almost crumble up with your shoulders down and your foot that you need to work on vertically below you.

Stage 2. Breathe in and on the outbreath, lift your leg as high as you can in front of you, while stretching up through the back, pulling your shoulder blades together and allowing the head to drop slightly backwards. Remember that as we get older, we have to be more careful with dropping our head backwards, so gently does it!

Repeat this initially five times and then try to build it up to sessions of ten, several times a day

Action Man

Lie on your tummy. Bring your elbows to rest on the floor by your shoulders and then digging into your elbows use them to make you feel as if you can slide forward along your tummy. This will put a mild traction into the spine.

( We know, when the pain is really bad, you simply won't be able to get on your tummy. But you are going to get better and you will be able to do this. Experiment during the day, you may find late afternoon you can get down on to the floor)

Dead Bug

This has several stages. The first is shown in the top photo. Simply lie on your back, put your hands in a diamond shape on your tummy so the thumbs are near your tummy button and your finger tips are close to your pubic mound. On an out breath, try and pull your tummy in as hard as you can, as if you really have to get into a smaller pair of jeans and at the same time try and lift your pelvic floor.

You should feel the muscles tightening under your fingers.

Try and recreate that feeling while standing up, many times during the day

As you get better there are more advanced stages of this exercise but to begin with stick to pulling your tummy muscles in.

Bird Dog exercise

Again don't rush it. Just holding the first position shown on this video with your tummy muscles engaged is a starter. The video is courtesy of Precision Chiropractic who are based in Caerphilly. Their phone number is 02920 86180002920 861800