If sciatica or hip flexor pain is putting a damper on your workout plans, try this 3-step stretch routine. These stretches for sciatica also relieve tight hip flexors and are my go-to for sore muscles and limited range of motion.
Sciatic nerve pain can cause a dull ache or pinching sensation in the lower back, hips, buttocks and legs, and approximately 40% of the population suffers from it in their lifetime. Tight hip flexors are more common, often caused by sedentary lifestyles and prolonged sitting. In many cases, lower back pain stems from tight hamstrings, glutes, or hip flexors.
Fear not though, because as a personal trainer, I’ve spent years developing mobility and stretching routines to keep joints healthy, release tension, improve mobility, and prevent injury. Grab one of the best yoga mats and get ready to stretch it.
What is sciatica?
The sciatic nerve starts in the lower back and runs down both legs, and pain usually occurs somewhere along the nerve when it gets pinched. Experiences vary from person to person, but most people report pain or aching on one side, and some experience tingling or numbness in their muscles.
Your first port of call should always be a check-in with your doctor or a competent healthcare professional if you are experiencing any pain or discomfort and want to try a new exercise and recovery regimen. But, if you’re allowed to exercise, here are three traits I swear by.
I’m a Personal Trainer – and Here’s My 3-Step Stretching Routine for Sciatica and Hip Flexor Pain
None of these stretches should aggravate your sciatic nerve, but we also recommend these best exercises for sciatica if you need more inspiration.
It’s the one move I use weekly with clients and it never disappoints. That’s if you can get past his nickname: the hip-breaker.
Classically used in yoga, it translates as Mandukasana in Sanskrit. And of course, TikTokkers have since picked it up and gone viral. The pose externally rotates the hip joints and stretches the hips, adductors (inner thighs), and lower back, acting as a deep groin and hip opener that could improve lower-body workouts, posture, and the depth of the squat.
Anyone who sits for long periods should give this a try, as a sedentary lifestyle can lead to back pain and tight hip flexors. The hips and lower back also play a crucial role in posture, so stretching and strengthening the hips and back could help. Existing studies have also shown that Yin yoga involving long static stretches could relieve stress and improve sleep.
Learn more about this move for hip flexor pain here.
- Start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees
- Shift your weight forward to your shoulders and slide your knees out to the sides. Keep your inner knees hugging the mat
- Slide your feet outward so that they are in line with your knees, with the inner sides of your feet pressed against the mat
- Gently push your hips towards your feet
- Lower your elbows to the floor and rest your head on the mat. Use a yoga bolster or block for support if needed. Hold the position for several minutes.
You don’t have to be a flexible yogi to sit in a yogi squat—there are ways to adjust. Try folding a yoga mat or towel or placing two yoga blocks under your heels if you can’t get them flat on the mat. The stretch is great for your lower back, hips, knees, ankles and adductors.
- Start in a squat position with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, heels pressed in, and toes pointing slightly outward
- Lower your butt and lift your chest, then bring your hands into a prayer position in front of your chest
- Use both elbows to push your knees out so that they follow the line of your heels
- Find a depth you can hold for 30 seconds, then start rolling from heel to heel for a gentle hip massage. Repeat for 30 seconds.
The International Journal of Yoga found that yoga poses that require movement of the pelvis and trunk engage core muscles such as the hip flexors and diaphragm, which could improve core strength.
The pigeon is primarily a buttock and hip stretch that targets the deep gluteus muscle called the piriformis. People who practice this pose regularly notice improved mobility and reduced pain.
- Start by sitting in a chair with your feet flat on the floor
- Cross the left leg over the other with the ankle resting on the thigh of the opposite leg
- Gently pull the knee up towards the opposite shoulder, rotating the torso towards the knee. Try the move on your back for extra support or sitting up (see photo above) if that feels more challenging.
Remember, some exercises may make the pain worse, so here are some exercises you should avoid if you suffer from sciatic nerve pain and how to practice around them. Try holding each stretch for several minutes and repeat for two rounds if you have the time. I like to do them just before bed as part of a bedtime yoga routine, which also helps me sleep better.
The best stretches for sciatica and hip flexor pain
Your network of muscles, tendons, joints and ligaments connect throughout your body. This means that pain in one spot could be originating elsewhere, so the best range-of-motion exercises and stretches should target various muscle groups. If done regularly, they could ease pain and improve symptoms. Aim for every day or several times a week.
The International Sports Sciences Association explains that flexibility is the muscle’s ability to stretch passively, such as holding a hip or extending the back. Mobility refers to motor control and the ability to move a joint through its full range of motion, such as how far you can open your hip.
Both could improve athletic performance, help you lift more, run faster, and become a more effective athlete. This 3-step stretch routine for sciatica and hip flexor pain uses static stretches and long, deep grips to release tension, increase flexibility, build strength, and reduce pain.
More from Tom’s Guide
After all our fitness challenges at Tom’s Guide, we love stretching our sore muscles. Here are our favourites.
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