Exercises to Strengthen the Lower Back and Sciatic Nerve

These tips and exercises will help you heal your lower back and sciatic nerve and prevent you from hurting your lower back again.

Your lower back supports your upper back, your buttocks and your legs. The sciatic nerve starts in the lower back and runs down your legs. It is the longest and widest single nerve in the body. This nerve supplies almost the whole skin of the leg, the muscles of the back of the thigh, and those of the leg, ankle and foot.

Sciatica is a set of symptoms, not a diagnosis, which means it does not explain the cause of the pain. If this happens to you, you need to get a specific reason for this problem from a doctor or chiropractor.

I’ve heard of baseball players hurting their back and they can’t play, just because they sneezed. I wondered about that until at age 30 I hurt mine to the point I couldn’t even walk just because I sneezed while sitting in an awkward position. The pain was terrible, all of the muscles of that leg had atrophied and I had no feeling whatsoever in the back of my leg, completely numb.

If you hurt your sciatic nerve

When this happened, the pain was right at the left side of my lower back, where the back meets the hip. For a couple of days I just lay on the couch using a heating pad and aspirin. Someone gave me the name of her chiropractor and I called him. He told me not to use the heating pad but to use ice. That helped the pain for a while. Though the pain was still extreme and I still couldn’t walk. I went to the chiropractor and he did the aligning, popping and explained everything about what happened to me. Apparently it can start by being out of alignment to begin with and that sneeze in the awkward position finally did it. The chiropractor would not give me any pain medication and told me not to take aspirin unless the pain became unbearable, that aspirin just masks the pain and can prolong the healing. So for the next couple of days I relaxed using ice packs, it’s also a good idea to take a warm bath and then again use the ice packs. After that it was back to him for more treatment and I had to slowly learn to do exercises and I had to practice walking the right way again. Since the sciatic nerve controls the leg, ankle and foot, your foot might have a tendency to not work right.

Exercises

You should of course check with your doctor if this happens, or before exercising. These exercises will help you heal your back and the muscles of your back and leg if you’ve injured your sciatic nerve. If you haven’t then these will strengthen that area possibly preventing an injury to your lower back.

Stretching

You need to loosen up and warm up. While stretching, it is important to never bounce when you stretch. Just slowly stretch and hold it. Nothing about stretching should be fast, and remember to breath in and out slowly. I will try and explain these as simply as I can so that it doesn’t sound like a game of Twister.

  • Lie on your back, bend the knee towards the chest as close to the chest as you comfortably can, grasp the knee but don’t pull it. Repeat with the other leg.
  • Lie on your back, fold your arms over your chest, feet flat on the floor. Lift your buttocks off the floor, hold for a second and slowly lower back down.
  • Lie on your stomach, with your forearms raise yourself up and hold. You will be raising just your upper body, arching your back in a stretch.
  • On your hands and knees, sit back so your buttocks are touching your heels, slowly move your arms across the floor until your forehead is touching the ground.
  • Hamstring stretch, hands against the wall, with one leg behind you stretching the hamstring, keep the other knee bent with no stretching on it.

Sciatic Nerve Exercises – Do as many reps as comfortable

  • Butt lift: Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Your hands can be folded across your chest or straight out. But don’t use your hands to help lift you up. Using your legs, lift your buttocks up to a comfortable level, and back down and repeat a number of times.
  • Stomach crunches, strengthening the abdominal muscles is also important to the lower back. Lay on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Arms folded across your chest. Raise your upper body up using your stomach muscles. Back down and repeat. When you raise up, you don’t have to raise very far at all.
  • Knee lifts, lay on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor arms out or folded, whichever is more comfortable. Keeping your knees bent, lift both legs up towards your chest and back down and repeat.
  • Lie on your side, knees bent and hips and shoulders aligned. Raise the top knee keeping it bent and press your heels together. This helps the hips and pelvis region.
  • For the calves. At an angle, both hands on a wall. Lift up on the balls of your feet and back down. Repeat as many times as you can. This will strengthen the calf muscles that might have diminished after a sciatic nerve injury.
  • Ankles. Standing and supporting yourself, lift one foot off the ground. Move your foot outward and inward and continue and repeat. For example, move your right foot outward to the right at the ankle.

Other tips

  • If you are overweight, that can hurt your lower back.
  • Walking is great to tone the leg muscles and get the circulation going.
  • If you go to a chiropractor, when you get home, lie down and relax for a while, this gives the back a chance to rest after having your spine aligned again.

Sam Montana © 14 January 2009

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