Sciatica Stretches

Sciatica stretches can be very helpful in relieving pain and other symptoms of sciatic nerve irritation.  There are two main types of stretches for sciatica. 

The first type is for reducing tension in muscles such as the piriformis, which can either place direct pressure on the sciatic nerve or develop knots of contraction called “trigger points” that produce referred pain that mimics sciatica. 
The second group of sciatica stretches are intended to place the lower spine in positions that push underlying disc bulges away from the spinal nerve components of the sciatic nerve, thereby relieving pressure and irritation.   
While there are several ways to do both types of sciatica stretches, I recommend keeping things as simple as possible to start out with.  A treatment regimen composed of a couple of exercises done frequently is typically more effective than a stretching program with multiple stretches that require too much time and thought for most people to do them on a regular basis. 
Although it may be easy to stay motivated to do the exercises while the pain is bad,  once symptoms subside most people will stop doing a complex stretching program.  Since ongoing preventive use of sciatica stretches is critical to long-term prevention and worsening of sciatica recurrences over time, it generally is more productive to use a simple exercise routine that can be done quickly and is much easier to make a part of one’s daily routine.
The following are some basic stretches for sciatica to get you started:
The Basic Piriformis Stretch For Sciatica:
Piriformis Sciatica Stretch 
Begin by lying on your back on a firm surface.  Slowly and carefully pull the painful leg towards your chest, and then across your body toward the opposite shoulder as shown.  Hold the stretch for 10 to 15 seconds, then slowly relax and allow the leg to return to the starting position.  Repeat the stretch with the opposite leg (even if you only have sciatica symptoms on one side, it is beneficial to stretch both legs as there are neurological reflexes that cross from one side of the body to the other that can help relax both muscles). 
The Basic McKenzie Extension Sciatica Stretch:


McKenzie Basic Sciatica Stretch
Lie on your stomach on a firm surface.  Slowly and carefully prop yourself up on your elbows.  Hold this position for up to a minute at a time, *unless there is an increase in the sciatica symptom intensity and/or the symptoms travel further down the leg (in which case you should NOT perform this exercise!). 
There are several ways to modify the exercises above to improve results.  In addition to sciatica stretches, there are also other home treatments that can be very effective in relieving sciatic nerve pain and preventing it from recurring. 

Checkout My Members Area To Learn Ways To Better Manage Your Sciatica.


  • Margaret

    Reply Reply August 18, 2011

    This looks like good news again

  • Janis Martinez

    Reply Reply September 21, 2011

    I just started doing the basic McKenzie stretch. The first day I had to lie flat w/arms extended on the floor. Second day I could rest on my elbows. The third day, after going for an hour long walk and was experiencing a noticeable amount of pain, I did the exercise with arms extended on the floor and then moved on to repeating the exercise resting on my elbows. I have not noticed a decrease in pain because the pain varies all the time. Today, after the walk, I felt pain from the outside of my right hip, my leg from below the knee and the pad under the big toe. I usually walk for an hour each day and the pain will subside from the hip/buttock and down the outside of the leg. Lately, it is hard to predict the level of pain and where is going to show up. This morning, the pain seemed to be coming from the side of my right hip, the right side of my right leg and under my big toe. It took a long time for the symptoms to decrease during that hour. I had a fall in 5/11 and was in PT for almost 3 months. The x-rays showed degeneration but that is nothing new for me. I don’t know that they are any worse than they were in the past. The PT therapy was helpful and I was released at the beginning of 8/11. (I already had a diagnosis of sciatica). The symptoms returned with a vengeance at the beginning of Sept. when I reached down to pick up my backpack from the floor of the parking lot after a 3 hour drive. I had never felt such excruciating pain in my life. I saw my chiropractor as soon as I could. She adjusted my spine and prescribed Valerian. It helped some but not enough so I could sleep through the pain at night and get out of bed w/out severe pain. Every movement was horrible. It really felt like it was coming from my hip.
    The rehab doctor I go to prescribed Flexeril and it helped some but I am very drowsy. Would I be wise to do all the upper body stretches that I was doing before but limit the number of repetitions for lower body stretches to like 3 in each set? Should I do the lower body stretches slowly and expect less of a stretch for now? I am suppose to teach a hour long senior aerobic class that includes warm-up, stretches, balance, cardiovascular, weight-bearing and cool-down but now am not sure I could get through such a routine just now. I want to recover to be able the teach the class. It is a big motivator for me to keep working on recovery.

    • Dr. George Best

      Reply Reply September 23, 2011

      Hi Janis,

      You didn’t give any specifics as to what stretches you are doing, so all I can tell you right now about those is to try doing the lower body ones very gently and as long as things don’t get worse, you can continue doing them.

      With the ongoing variation in the pain, one possibility is that you have a sequestered disc fragment, which means that the disc has actually ruptured and a piece of the inner gel has separated from the main part of the disc and is moving around in the spinal canal, thus causing the symptoms to vary. This is not something that would show up on a regular X-ray and would require an MRI or CT scan to detect it. In some cases, the fragment will shift to a spot where it doesn’t cause any nerve irritation and the symptoms can go away completely, then it can shift again and cause major nerve irritation and symptoms.

      What I suggest is continue using the McKenzie stretch several times per day (as long as things don’t get worse) and try using cold packs on the lower back to get the inflammation down, and work with your chiropractor. You may not have a sequestered disc fragment, but I think it needs to be kept in mind as a possibility. So, if you are not improving significantly within a week or so, I’d recommend getting an MRI done to further evaluate the situation.

      I would definitely hold off on trying to teach the exercise class until you are much improved. Most likely you will be able to teach the class at some point, but it is important that you get your back stabilized before you try to do that.

      Good luck!

      Dr. Best

  • shubhank

    Reply Reply December 19, 2011

    i am 23 years old and suffering from pain at right leg. At its peak situation pain at middle of back bone also created. At its peak situation i have to use pain killer tablets (usually slow diclofence tablets). in the age of 12 year i have faced a small injury at back bone.May it be a reason of sciatica?

    • Dr. George Best

      Reply Reply December 24, 2011

      Hello Shubhank,

      The injury that occurred when you were 12 might have something to do with the sciatica you have now, but there is no way to know for sure and it really doesn’t matter with regards to treating it now.

      In any event, I recommend you begin with the basic exercises shown on the videos and in the ebook, as well as apply cold packs to your lower back as instructed in the ebook (available at Frequent use of the McKenzie exercise that best centralizes the symptoms (as explained in the video and ebook) – about a minute at a time, up to 4 or 5 times every hour you are awake will usually ease the symptoms significantly within a few days to a week. Additional treatments and preventive exercises are available in my members area. For more information about that, visit my Advanced Sciatica Exercises page.

  • Ian K Redmond

    Reply Reply February 23, 2012

    O.K. Here goes…Yes I have all the symptoms of sciatica and to date, apart from pain killers, nothing helps so I’m going to give your treatment system a go. I’ll let you know what works, (and what does not) so wish me luck ‘cos this condition pervades my whole lifestyle at the moment and that is no fun at all.

    • Dr. George Best

      Reply Reply February 25, 2012

      Good luck to you Ian. Let me know how things are going and if you have any questions.

      Dr. Best

  • Alton Brown

    Reply Reply October 2, 2012

    I have discovered your website and find it very informative. I have been using the McKenzie method for back relief and am finding some relief but seems to be slow.
    Generally find that all my pain subsides after 1-2 minutes when I sit in a hard chair or office chair with good back and lumbar support. Is this OK since it gives me relief?

    I also enjoy yard work and walking. Generally, I have little or no pain as long as I keep walking. However, standing and little movement allows lower back, hip joint pain and sometimes leg pain.
    Since there is little or no pain, does walking or yard work “aggravate” my sciatica problem and pain?

    • Dr. George Best

      Reply Reply October 3, 2012

      Hello Alton,

      It sounds like you probably have some degenerative arthritis with associated muscle reaction in the low back and hip area. In this type of situation, symptoms are mostly produced by inflammatory swelling and muscle contraction, although there is usually some direct narrowing of the nerve passages by disc protrusion, and/or degenerative thickening of bone and spinal ligaments.

      With symptoms related to degeneration, sitting will often relieve symptoms as the seated position typically places the spine in a slightly flexed position which separates the spinal bones at the back of the spine and opens up more space in the nerve passages. It is fine to sit for brief periods as you need to for symptom relief. I recommend prolonged sitting though as it will tend to cause increased protrusion of any bulging discs that may be present.

      Walking and being physically active can help symptoms in degenerative cases because movement “pumps” away inflammatory swelling, whereas a lack of movement allows swelling to collect and increase pressure around the nerves. Walking and yardwork are fine in limited amounts if you are not having increased pain while doing them. If you overdo it, you may have an increase in symptoms 1 to 2 days after the excessive exertion, so just be careful with your activities and try to avoid lifting anything heavy.

      Since it sounds like a lot of your symptoms are related to inflammation, I would suggest applying cold packs as directed in my ebook a few times per day. In addition, because yours appears to be a degenerative situation, you might get some benefit from an inversion or home traction device to help stretch out the spine and increase the space in the nerve passages. Before doing that though, I recommend you see a doctor to have some X-rays done to be sure that there is not too much bony narrowing of the nerve passages as inversion/traction can aggravate symptoms when there is a lot of bony stenosis (narrowing). If the doctor says that inversion/traction would be alright for you, I suggest the Teeter brand of inversion tables or the Spinal Stretch (which is also made by Teeter). If you have any issues with dizziness or poor circulation, I’d go with the Spinal Stretch, but otherwise it’s mostly a matter of personal preference.

      If you have further questions, let me know.

      Good luck!

      Dr. Best

  • Rade Jovancevi

    Reply Reply February 24, 2013

    Dear Sir,
    I have problem with sciatica, discus hernia before 6 year and now the problem return and
    Diagnostic of MRI as follows:

    In last 4 weeks I have in right leg from hip to the foot nubs and very strong pain and now
    if I sitting or walking more than 1-2 minutes the pain increasing and I need back to bad to relax only on the back. Now I going to therapy on machine DRX9000 and taking Arcoxia and ibuprofen 2 x 600mg daily but the pain is not reduced. The situation become every week worst and I planning to stop the therapy and trying Hilterapia or acupuncture to reduce pain and inflammation of the disc.

    Now I cannot traveling and I am not still ready to
    Please find time and advice therapy that should be better of my problem.
    I appreciate your prompt replay.
    Best regards,
    Rade Jovancevic

    • Dr. George Best

      Reply Reply February 25, 2013

      Hello Rade,

      You did not say how many sessions you have had on the DRX9000. I recommend allowing at least 6 sessions to see if it is going to help. If you have done that many or more and things are still not improving, then it is probably time to try something else. You also did not say whether the MRI findings you listed are recent, or from when you first had the problem 6 years ago. If you have not had an updated MRI, I would recommend that you have one, since a lot can change in 6 years and there may be something new occurring that would be important to know about. If you do get a new MRI and would like to discuss those findngs, let me know.

      Acupuncture and/or laser treatment might help. If you can tolerate it, I recommend you try doing the McKenzie exercise in the position that best centralizes symptoms (as explained in the instructions in the ebook and videos) on a frequent basis as per the instructions. Applying cold packs per the instructions in the ebook is also recommended.

      If you have further questions, let me know.

      Good luck!

      Dr. Best

  • Suren

    Reply Reply August 2, 2013

    Hi There,
    I am 32 years old and I have been suffering from lower back pain since 5 months, there was a mild pain in the right part of the lower back and in the knee of the right leg.Then the pain starts increasing day by day.
    According to my MRI report, it says there is no evidence of neural compromise,flattening of the disc with minimal narrowing of the right exit neural foramen noted at L4/L5 level and straightening of the lumbar spine in keeping with muscular spams.
    I have been doing the physical therapy since the beginning but I feel nothing yet but still the same.Now the pain goes from the lower back , to the hip and to the feet in the right now and it burns and tingles a lot.
    So is this the sign of Sciatica and what else I must do to cure this ?

    • Dr. George Best

      Reply Reply August 2, 2013

      Hello Suren,

      You didn’t say what if anything the two tests on the main page of my website indicated, and from what you described, it is difficult to say whether you have true nerve compression sciatica or piriformis related sciatica. My first suggestion is to try the tests on the homepage of this site and see if that narrows things down a bit. If there is a clear indication, I suggest you start with the self-treatment methods suggested for it in the free ebook. If you don’t already have it, you may download it from the link on the right sidebar at:

      When in doubt, focus on the McKenzie exercise in the position that best centralizes the symptoms (as per the instructions in the ebook).

      If you are not getting much improvement within a week or two, I’d suggest seeing a chiropractor to have your sacroiliac joints checked out, as dysfunction in these joints can cause piriformis syndrome.

      If you have further questions, let me know.

      Good luck!

      Dr. Best

  • Rajolu Ramam

    Reply Reply November 15, 2014

    Dear sir

    I am trying both the exercises once in the morning and once in the evening. I am 70 years old. X-ray lumbo sacral spine AP/LAT view says 1)Degenerative osteophytosis in the lumber vertebral column. 2)Degenerative spondylotic changes at L4/L5/S1 levels. 3)Vertebral heights are normal. 4)pedicles and posterior elements are intact. 5)no evidence of paravertibral soft tissue swelling. Kindly advise me whether I am doing the right thing
    Thanking you
    Rajolu Ramam
    Hyderabad; India

    • Dr. George Best

      Reply Reply November 15, 2014


      The x-ray findings don’t really give a good indication of what you should or should not be doing. Most people your age, with or without symptoms, have similar findings. The best indication of whether the exercises are appropriate is whether centralization of the symptoms is occurring. Centralization is explained in detail in my free ebook. I’m not sure if you have the ebook or are just going from the basic instructions on this video, so if you don’t have the ebook, you may download it from the right sidebar of this page: . The way to determine if you are doing the right thing is to test the exercises to find what produces centralization, so be sure to thoroughly read and follow all of the instructions in the ebook. Once you find the best position for the McKenzie exercises, I suggest you increase the frequency of them. Twice a day is usually not sufficient to get good results, at least not quickly. For your age and condition, I’d suggest doing the exercise for a minute or so, once or twice every hour you are awake until there is significant symptom improvement and then you can use them once or twice per day for prevention. You may get some back soreness doing them that often, but as long as the symptoms are centralizing, you are on the right track. In addition to the exercises, I also suggest using the cold pack treatment per the instructions (also in the ebook).

      If you don’t get significant improvement within a couple of weeks, I’d recommend trying to get an MRI or CT scan to further evaluate the situation. The vast majority of the time, the underlying cause of sciatica does not show up on regular x-rays. Degenerative changes like the ones in your spine rarely by themselves produce sciatica unless they are unusually severe, so more advanced imaging is needed to help determine what the problem is and what the best treatment options are when exercises and medication don’t work.

      Good luck!

      Dr. Best

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