Sciatica pain causes, symptoms and fast relief with exercises

Sciatica is a neurological problem where your sciatic nerve causes pain or numbness down your leg.

There are 4 leading causes for sciatica, which I’ll discuss extensively here.

I’ll also show you how you can relieve your sciatic pain with exercises. These exercises consist of
stretching your back and hip muscles as well as strengthening your lower back.

In most cases, you can cure your sciatic pain entirely if you know what causes it.

When you experience loss of bladder control or reduced motor control of your legs, please get in touch with your doctor first.

So let’s find out the cause and treatment for your sciatic pain.

1. Causes of sciatica pain
2. Symptoms of sciatica
3. Sciatica pain relief with exercises

Sciatica pain causes, symptoms and fast relief with 5 exercises

Causes of sciatica pain

Sciatica pain comes from irritation or inflammation of the sciatic nerve.

In your lower back nerves leave the spinal cord through the space between 2 vertabrae. These small nerves then come together to form one big nerve, your sciatic nerve.

The sciatic nerve runs from your back through your buttock and your leg into your calf and ends up in your foot.

There are 4 major causes for irritation of the sciatic nerve.

The most common one is a herniated disc. When the outer part of the intevertebral disc in your back breaks, the gel inside it pulls out. The gel can cause compression or an inflammatior reaction with your sciatic nerve, causing sciatic pain.

The second cause for sciatica pain is spinal stenosis. With spinal stenosis the space for the nerves in your lower back decreasis causing compression of the nerve and therefore pain. Degeneration of your spine is often the cause for spinal stenosis.

The third cause of sciatic nerve pain is compression of the nerve by your piriformis muscle. We call this piriformis syndrome. The nerve runs below or through your piriformis muscle in your buttocks. When the muscles tightens through overuse or irritation it compresses the nerve causing sciatic nerve pain.

The fourth cause for sciatica pain is symply a disfuction between the last lumbar vertebra and the first sacrial vertebra. When this joint moves less efficiently, the nerve that leaves your spine here gets compressed. The compression causes radiating pain into your calf muscle.

You can distinguish the different causes of sciatica pain by the symptoms.

Also read: Herniated disc treatment L5-S1 with 3 exercises to avoid surgery

4 causes for sciatica pain

Symptoms of sciatica

Sciatica presents itself as pain and sometimes tingling or numbness in your leg. Your calf and foot are most affected. It can also cause muscle weakness in your leg.

The symptoms differ based on the cause of your sciatica pain.


Herniated disc

A herniated disc sometimes causes back pain and pain and numbness in your calf on one side. Ultimately the pain can radiate down into your leg. You can also experience reduced strength in your calf, making walking difficult. Bending forward is painful and often aggravates your leg pain, as well as sitting for a long time. Laying down reduces your symptoms. Walking can also reduce your pain.

Also, extending your back can reduce your leg pain because it reduces the compression on your sciatic nerve.


Spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis can also cause leg pain, but when this happens differs from a herniated disc.

The pain starts in your foot and then continues upwards in your leg. The radiating pain begins when you stand for too long or walk for a long time. Sitting or bending forward relieves the radiating pain almost immediately. When the pain in your calf reduces just by standing still, you might suffer from vascular claudication. When this is the case, visit your doctor for further investigation.

Sciatica pain from spinal stenosis often occurs in both legs other than a herniated disc or piriformis syndrome.


Piriformis syndrome

Piriformis syndrome causes pain in the buttock, which can radiate to your lower back. It also causes tingling in your calf and foot. The pain starts after sitting or standing for a long time. It aggravates your piriformis and increases the pressure on your sciatic nerve. Also, bending forward a lot can overuse the piriformis and cause pain and radiation.


Lumbar joint disfunction

The final cause for sciatica pain is lumbar disc disfunction. It causes back pain and tingling in your calf and sometimes your foot as well, but no buttock pain. The pain is most when sitting for a long time or when you get out of bed. Extending your back as well as bending forward both cause leg pain. Being active reduces your symptoms.

As you can see, every cause for sciatica comes with its symptoms. When you know the cause of sciatica, it’s easier to perform the most effective treatment with exercises.

Also read: Piriformis syndrome: Treatment in 4 weeks with 3 exercises.

Sciatica pain causes, symptoms and fast relief with exercises

Sciatica pain relief with 5 exercises

Since there are different possible causes for sciatica pain, the treatment can also be different.

You’ll get the fastest sciatica pain relief by limiting the movements that aggravate your leg pain. You can also massage or stretch your lower back and piriformis muscle to reduce tension and compression of the nerve.

Anti-inflammatory drugs can relieve your pain by suppressing the inflammatory reaction of the nerve.

I’ll show you the exercises that can relieve your sciatica pain. For each exercise, I’ll describe for which cause it helps and why it helps.

So for effective treatment, you’ll first have to know the cause of your sciatica pain before you can treat it correctly.

Let’s start with the exercises.

Also read: Lower back pain treatment with 4 exercises to avoid surgery.

5 sciatica stretches for fast pain relief

Sciatica pain exercise 1: Improve the mobility of your lower back

The first exercise improves the mobility of your lower back. A stiff lower back causes more pressure on your vertebral disc and nerves. It also reduces the mobility of your hip, which can cause more tension in your piriformis muscles.

That’s why this exercise can be helpful for all 4 causes of sciatica pain.

Perform the exercise like this:

  • Lay down on your back with your knees bend, and your arms spread
  • Rotate your knees and hips to one side and your head towards the other
  • Keep your shoulders on the ground
  • Hold this for 10 seconds
  • Repeat this 5 times for each side

You can find the execution of the exercise in this video.

Repeat the exercise twice a day.

Sciatica pain exercise 1: Improve the mobility of your lower back

Sciatica pain exercise 2: Improve the strength of your lower back

The second exercise focuses on the strength of your lower back. By training the muscles that improve the stability of your lower back, you prevent it from becoming stiff again. The exercise also helps to reduce back pain and overload of het nerve. You can do this exercise for all 4 causes.

Perform the exercise like this:

  • Lay down on your back with your knees bent
  • Cross your arms over your chest
  • Lift your hips
  • Hold this for 10 second
  • Repeat this 3 times

You can find the execution of the exercise in this video.

When the exercise becomes too easy, you can extend one leg and hold this for 10 or even 15 seconds. Perform this 3 times for each leg.

Sciatica pain exercise 2: Improve the strength of your lower back

Sciatica pain exercise 3: Improve the extension of your back

The third exercise helps to improve extending your back. When you have back pain for a long time, your back becomes stiff. It’s more difficult to extend your back just above the levels that compress your nerve. It results in more pressure on your nerve, which maintains your pain.

By laying down on a back stretcher, you can loosen the joints in your lower back above the compressed nerve, reducing the pressure on the nerve itself. It gives your body a chance to repair the damaged nerve.

The exercise helps well against a herniated disc and spinal stenosis. It doesn’t necessarily help for the other causes, but there is no harm in doing it.

Lay down on the back stretcher for a few minutes several times a day. Place it at the height of your lower ribs.

Sciatica pain exercise 3: Improve the extension of your back

Sciatica pain exercise 4: Stretch your piriformis muscle

The fourth exercise stretches your piriformis muscle. By reducing the tension in your piriformis muscle, you reduce the compression of the muscle on your sciatic nerve.

Less compression means less damage and less pain. It gives the nerve a chance to recover.

The exercise only helps when the piriformis muscle causes sciatic nerve pain.

Perform the exercise like this:

  • Grab your left knee with your left hand.
  • Grab your left ankle with your right hand.
  • Pull your left knee toward your right shoulder.
  • Pull your left ankle also towards your right shoulder.
  • Hold this for 15 seconds and repeat it 2 times.

You can find the execution of the exercise in this video.

You’ll feel pain and tension in your buttock when you do the exercise. When the piriformis loosens, the pain will disappear. Do the exercise twice a day.

Sciatica pain exercise 4: Stretch your piriformis muscle

Sciatica pain exercise 5: Stretch your sciatic nerve

The final exercise stretches your sciatic nerve. When there is irritation of your sciatic nerve for so long, it sometimes becomes stuck within its protective layer. That results in reduced mobility of the nerve. So when you bend forward, you increase the tension on the nerve which causes radiating pain in your leg.

It’s like stretching a stiff muscle. By stretching the nerve you restore the mobility reducing the aggrivation of pain.

Be careful with this exercise when you have a herniated disc. Since you need to bend forward to stretch the nerve, you increase the pressure on the intervertrebal disc. When you’re in the early stage this can provoce your herniated disc and slow down the recovery.

For all the other causes of back pain its a great exercise.

Perform the exercise like this:

  • Place your heel on a chair
  • Extend your knee and pull your toes towards you
  • Try to reach for your toes with your hand
  • Hold this for 20 seconds
  • Repeat this three times

You can find the execution of the exercise in this video.

At first you’ll feel the familiar pain in your calf region but when you perform the exercise more frequently this feeling will dissapear.

Sciatica pain exercise 5: Stretch your sciatic nerve


As you can see, you can do a lot yourself against sciatic nerve pain. When you still have questions after this article, please send me an e-mail, and I’ll try to help you as much as possible with your pain.