The sciatic nerve is the longest and largest nerve in your body. When your sciatic nerve is pinched, the pain can be infrequent and annoying or constant and debilitating. However, permanent sciatic nerve damage is very rare. Light exercise and stretching can actually help alleviate some of the pain and symptoms involved with a pinched sciatic nerve.
The sciatic nerve originates in your lumbar spine known as your lower back, travels under the piriformis muscle, the back of your thighs and branches out down toward your feet. When the nerve is pinched or pressed on by something else, for example a herniated disc, the pain you feel is called sciatica. Sciatica refers to a tingling, numbness or weakness down one of your legs. The pain may be constant, sharp or dull and is often worse when you sit.
Gentle stretching and exercise is encouraged when you experience a pinched sciatic nerve. The specific exercises prescribed depend on the medical condition that is causing the pinched nerve, for example piriformis syndrome. Your fitness level and amount of pain you’re experiencing can also determine which treatment plan is best. Sometimes, the pain may be so severe, it may be best to rest for one or two days. However, prolonged rest — resting for more than two days — can make your pain worse, according to the Spine Health website. Consult with your physician before beginning any exercises when you suffer from a pinched sciatic nerve.
Stretching and low-impact aerobic exercises are the two main methods of exercise to perform when you have a pinched sciatic nerve. Stretches for sciatic pain target your muscles that may cause pain when they are tight, such as your hamstrings. Aerobic activity promotes the exchange of fluid and nutrients to generate a healing environment. Examples of low-impact aerobic exercise are walking and swimming.
A pinched sciatic nerve can sometimes be prevented with proper warm-up techniques and frequent stretching. When performing regular exercise, warm up before beginning any weight-bearing exercises, such as running and strength training. Begin on a treadmill or elliptical and warm up at a comfortable pace for five to 10 minutes to loosen your muscles, raise your heart rate and increase blood flow. When you are finished with your workout, take a few minutes to stretch all muscle groups that were the main focus of the workout. This prevents your muscles from tightening up too much during the recovery and repair process.