I treat a lot of people who have sciatica. And before they pop into my office, the majority of them have tried stretching their hamstrings at home to try and relieve their sciatica… with mixed results!
When pain first starts up, it’s almost natural to try and do a little stretching.
And why not? It doesn’t require equipment, you can do it anywhere, and you almost innately just know how to do it!
But there’s a little bit of a problem when it comes to stretching the hamstrings when sciatica is present.
...And it's not that you're not as flexible as my main man JCVD!
The Problem With Hamstring Stretching and Sciatica
What may appear as an innocent simple hamstring stretch can often pull on the sciatic nerve. In my world we call some of those moves “nerve tensioners”.
And guess what? They can provoke sciatica symptoms… so don’t do that!
But then how do you stretch your hamstrings if it pulls on the sciatic nerve?
My Method For Stretching The Hamstrings If You Have Sciatica
This is the technique/method I utilize in my office when working 1-on-1 with patients experiencing sciatica.
Quick note: I should mention that there are times when I don’t like stretching the hamstrings at all for any kind of sciatic pain. An example of this would be an acute lumbar disc herniation (among others). In fact, sometimes I prefer exercises like this one, over stretching. Be sure you consult your healthcare provider and do what works for you
Alright! So, the goal here is to keep the stretch in the hamstrings, not the sciatic nerve. So, we’re going to make a couple modifications to the regular stretch!
- Use A Chair: We’re going to use a chair, that way if you’re experiencing pain, you don’t have to worry about getting up and down off the ground
- Hip Hinge: We’re going to keep our low back in a neutral (not flexed forward) position. Forward bending = nerve tension = no thanks!
- Bent Knee: We’re going to also have a slight knee bend. This slacks the sciatic nerve and can ensure we keep the stretch in the hamstrings
Be sure to check out the video below for a quick walk through!
I personally like to keep my stretching pretty active and have a pulsing movement at the end range.
Hope this helps out and be sure to let me know if you have any questions!