Suffering from sciatica does not mean you should stop moving, but that you should be careful. Consider these top sciatica exercises to avoid and how to approach working out with the condition so that you take forward rather than backward steps.

Sciatica exercises to avoid

First, you want to think about exercises that you do not want to perform, moves that might exacerbate rather than relieve sciatica:

  • Double leg lift – People will often get sciatica or otherwise injure their backs with this exercise. Since the leg lift is one of the top sciatica exercises to avoid, before you start it, think about whether you can lift both your legs without also shifting your trunk or pelvis. That simple gauge should give you a sense if your ab muscles are really strong enough for this exercise.
  • Hamstring stretches – The sciatic nerve essentially follows the path of the hamstring muscles along the back of the thigh. Because of the location of the hamstrings, you may end up accidentally stretching and irritating your sciatic nerve with overly aggressive hamstring stretches – which is why they are one of the top sciatica exercises to avoid.
  • Bent over row – Part of the issue with the bent over row is that it stretches your hamstring for part of the exercise. Also, many people perform the exercise incorrectly, leading to disc herniation and sciatica. That occurs when people round their backs as they pick up the weights or bar.

How to exercise if you have sciatica

Beyond looking at sciatica exercises to avoid, you need to know what you can do. Take these steps to safely work out without hurting yourself:

1.) Use heat therapy.

Before you begin your workout, it is advisable to use heat therapy for 15 to 20 minutes. Heat therapy gives you two forms of alleviation:

  • Soft-tissue stretching – You can substantially mitigate the amount of pressure on your sciatic nerve roots that occurs with stretching when you prepare with heat.
  • Skin sensory-receptor stimulation – By stimulating the sensory receptors in the skin of your lower back, heat therapy helps to block pain signal transmission.

2.) Choose low-impact workout options.

Walking, yoga and Pilates can all be low-impact ways to get exercise when you are suffering from sciatica. Be careful with yoga to gently perform the poses, and skip ones that make you feel uneasy. There are also various possibilities in the pool: water walking and aqua aerobics, as well as swimming.

3.) Be mindful to walk the right way.

It is critically important to prepare with stretches and to use correct posture if you have sciatica and want to use walking to recover. Otherwise, the condition can worsen.

Smart & safe sciatica recovery

Are you suffering from excruciating sciatic nerve pain? Our patient Brad Shaw said of our team, “They want to get rid of the problem and solve the problem like it’s night and day.” Learn more.