Yoga Poses for Sciatica: Top Yoga Stretches to Help With Sciatica Pain
Basics of Sciatica Pain: What is Sciatica?
Without going into a ton of depth on sciatica, we'd like to offer some brief background information on the condition, as referenced via Cleveland Clinic. Then, we'll discuss the research behind this, what can be a debilitating condition, and the practice of yoga.
Sciatica, according to the Cleveland Clinic, is compression, irritation, inflammation or pinching of a nerve in your lower back. Sciatica can be caused by a number of different aliments, however oftentimes the pressure is due to a herniated or slipped disk from something like an injury or chronic irritation.
Spine-health.com provides a graphic, that shows you the points where one may experience pain. Check it out HERE!
The pain referenced when discussing this condition is in the lower back, which often radiates down the leg. The pain you experience can also be anywhere along the nerve, like the hips, and buttocks, according to Cleveland Clinic.
Harvard Health goes onto explain in one article that as much as 40% of people will actually suffer from sciatica at one point in their lives. Wow! That's a lot of the population!
What Does it Feel Like?
According to Spine-Health.com, sciatica can be associated with not just pain, but also "numbness in the back of the leg, one-sided symptoms, and posture induced symptoms".
Sciatica pain can be in the from of sensations such as, "burning", "electric", or "stabbing", affecting oftentimes one leg, however it is possible to occur in both, Cleveland Clinic explains.
How is Sciatica Treated?
Prior to discussing sciatica and yoga's potential impact, as well as some starter poses for sciatica relief, let's first discuss how sciatica, in general, is often treated.
Sciatica pain, according to Cleveland Clinic is oftentimes about symptom relief (like pain-relief), and bettering your mobility. Many cases relieve themselves overtime with self-care treatments, ice packs/hot packs, over-the-counter-medications, and gentle stretching.
What we want to focus in on this article is that "gentle stretch" part.
People who suffer from acute bouts of sciatica usually recover in about 4-8 weeks, explains one literature review on sciatica and lower back pain. However, of the individuals who suffer from lower back pain, 25%-80% will have some form of reoccurrence one year later.
Here are 3 Exercises for Symptoms Relief
What Does the Research Say About Yoga for Sciatica?
Again, it's important to note, you should always first check with your primary care doctor, or another qualified health professional, such as a physical therapist, prior to doing yoga for sciatica and/or symptom relief.
We are in no way saying that yoga is the end-all treatment, however there are poses that may help you generate some relief if you suffer from this condition.
Several research studies are available that give a little more insight to yoga for sciatica, or lower back pain in general.
One such study published in 2015, involved 61 subjects with non-specific lower back pain (nsLBP) or sciatica. These subjects were split into 2 groups; a yoga group, and a "normal medical care group" (the control group). They underwent 3 months of treatments, and in conclusion, the yoga group experienced less lower back pain and disability scores. Yoga was determined to be a safe alternative treatment for patients with nsLBP accompanied by disc extrusions and bulges.
A study published more recently, 2019, spoke about yoga therapies ability to offer not just postures that may be helpful in sciatica or lower back pain relief, but also breathing and relaxation techniques to suit individuals needs. It also concluded that nearly 77% of individuals practicing yoga for 30-days experienced pain relief. 80% had reductions in stiffness, nearly 80% had relief in "pricking" sensation.
A randomized control trial compared yoga, exercise, and a selfcare book for chronic lower back pain. Not only did results show that yoga was "superior" to the book and exercise groups at 12-weeks, but the benefits persisted for "several months".
A literature review (2016) was also done on the efficacy of yoga for chromic lower back pain (CLBP). Specifically the review focused on "how yoga impacts physical functioning and disability, pain, and psychological symptoms". Not only can this be a debilitating condition from a physical perspective, but people who suffer from CLBP have other associated symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and reduced quality of life. Yoga continues to grow in popularity, as it was the 7th most popular CAM therapy in 2007, which are commonly used forms of therapies to treat musculoskeletal conditions.
Another study totaling 90 participants, aimed to evaluate lyengar yoga therapy on CLBP. Multiple evaluation tools were used to assess a 24-week biweekly yoga class designed specifically for CLBP. Results showed reductions in functional disability and pain intensity compared to a control group. The study also concluded psychological benefits, like decreased depression within the yoga group.
A larger 313 participant study geared to assess yoga on CLBP compared to "usual care" for CLBP. The yoga group received a 12-class yoga program over 3 months, while the control group was given an education booklet. The results showed an improvement in back function among the yoga group, with similar outcomes in pain scores.
Now that we've covered a little background on sciatica, as well as some of the potential benefits of yoga for sciatica, let's talk yoga poses in general.
Top Yoga Poses and Stretches For Sciatica Pain
1. Downward Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Downward dog is one of the most well-known yoga poses and is utilized in many yoga routines. However, did you know it can also be a go to for it's benefits for a lower back stretch, to potentially help symptom relief of conditions like sciatica. It not only promotes full-body strengthening, correcting imbalances, but creates a deep stretch in the back.
Downward facing dog is a beginner friendly pose, done in the prone position. It's an inversion, forward-bend, stretch and strength-type pose. Emphasis of this asana is on the arms, shoulders, mid and lower back, core, hamstrings and pelvic region.
1. Beginning on your yoga mat in the prone position (on your belly), come up on your hands and knees, or all fours. Hands should be roughly shoulder-width apart.
2. Now lift your hips upward, towards the ceiling and back, while also coming up on your toes.
3. Continue the movement by bringing your head down, to which your ears become in line with your upper arms. Keep your back straight, pressing your hands into the mat, rocking back slightly onto your heels.
4. Your legs should remain straight. Eyes will be looking up at your naval.
5. Breath and hold for 1-3 minutes.
2. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Add the cobra pose to the list of asanas that can be used to help with lower back pain and/or sciatica pain, plus it's a relatively simple pose to pull-off.
Bhujangasana is a beginner-friendly pose, beginning in the prone position, a back-bend type pose. The cobra pose is beneficial to your back, opening up the chest, shoulders and firming the buttock area.
1. Begin prone on the floor, with the tops of your feet touching the mat.
2. Place your hands down, pressing into the yoga mat, roughly shoulder-width apart. Activate your thighs and lower legs pressing them as well into the mat.
3. Now, begin to lift your chest off of the floor. Extend your arms to get a better stretch.
4. Drop the shoulder back, pressing the chest forward, keeping the pubic bone pressing against the ground.
5. The back should be evenly arched. Hold this pose for 30 seconds.
3. Bridge Pose (Setubandha Sarvangasana)
Bridge pose is another great asana for stretching the back and although a beginner type pose, definitely offers additional benefits for strength and stamina. This pose can aide in toning up your core, legs, and buttocks.
Like cobra pose, bridge pose is another back-bend type maneuver, offering benefits geared toward strength and balance as well.
1. First begin on your back or the supine position. You can place a yoga blanket under your neck to help protect it during this asana.
2. Next, spread your legs about hip-width apart, and bend them up toward your buttocks, so that they are perpendicular to the floor or slightly more.
3. Press with your arms and shoulders and lift your hips upward, the chest should lift as well.
4. At this time your legs and buttocks should be activated to help stabilize and balance the body.
5. Clasp your hands together underneath the back of your thighs. Keep your feet firmly placed on the mat, continuing to press into your heels.
6. Breath and hold for 30 seconds - 1 minute.
Related Article: Expand Your Yoga Routine with these Yoga Props
4. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Lastly, Childs pose or Balasana. With emphasis on your lower back, Child's pose is a great restorative, forward-bend type pose. Child's pose can be a great pose to incorporative in between more challenging asanas.
1. First start on your knees, touching your big toes together, with your knees about hip-width apart.
2. Exhale and lower your hips to your heels, forehead down, and hands palm-side-down to the mat in front. (Alternatively, place your hands palms-up alongside your torso).
3. Attempt to release tension from the lower back to really get that stretch and elongation.
4. Breath focused and slowly. Child's pose can be held from 30 seconds, up to a few minutes time.
Yoga can be a very effective from of CAM therapy. The practice and many different styles can be used to improve many aspects of your life; physically, mentally and spiritually, it's all in what you want to achieve.
If you're someone who suffers from lower back pain, conditions like sciatica and other painful physical ailments, yoga may just be beneficial to add into your therapies or daily routines.
We hope you enjoyed this post, as you explore yoga for sciatica and/or lower back pain, you may find certain asanas, or styles of yoga work better for you. Listed above are some of the top yoga stretches, as well as one's which are easier to perform for any yogi!