Why Do Hamstring Stretches Make My Sciatic Pain Worse?
People often come to physical therapy with sciatic pain who believe stretching will provide some temporary relief, but over time this can actually exacerbate their condition.
The primary cause of sciatic nerve pain is stretching the muscles along its path. Extending these muscles makes the discomfort worse and prevents you from being able to re-tighten them to relax the nerve again. To alleviate this situation, avoid stretching altogether if possible; otherwise, this could make matters worse and prevent reassurance for a calmer nerve experience.
Some of the stretches you should avoid including:
This exercise is often found in Pilates and martial arts, and it may cause severe sciatic nerve pain. Furthermore, it jars your hip, which is another key issue for those suffering from sciatica since their thigh and pelvic bones are highly sensitive to movement.
Stretching the hamstring may also irritate your sciatic nerve, as it’s often a tight muscle and it can pull on it when you bend and extend.
Many people attempt to achieve a “runners’ stretch,” where you lean over the back of your foot and bend the knee in front. Unfortunately, this can actually irritate the sciatic nerve which runs down from your lower back through your buttock to your foot.
If your hamstrings are feeling mildly tight, this is an effective and low-impact way to stretch them. On the contrary, if you are suffering from a severe injury to your hamstrings, it would be best to seek medical advice prior to beginning this stretch.
Static stretches should be performed after you have done a warm up to increase your heart rate and warm the muscles, which allows them to move better. Dynamic stretches should be performed prior to exercising as this helps prepare the muscles for intense physical activity.
Two or three times daily, you should perform these hamstring stretches for increased strength and flexibility. Additionally, do these stretches before and after working out to prevent tightness and reduce your risk of injury.
To do this, stand facing a wall and place your affected leg about one step behind the other. Then bend your front knee and gently bring both your hips and chest toward the wall until you feel a stretch in the calf of the back leg.
Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and then repeat three times on each side.
Standing on a chair or elevated surface, hinge forward at your waist until a stretch is felt in the back of your thigh. If this exercise is proving challenging for you, try leaning on the floor or using a small stool as support.