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Best Exercises for Lumbar Radiculopathy (Sciatic Neuritis)

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 22, 2020

Lumbar r adiculopathy, or s ciatic n euritis, is a condition that usually results from a pinched nerve or a herniated disc, though other causes are possible.

Typical symptoms are weakness, pain, numbness, or tingling. Lumbar radiculopathy, which some people call sciatica, is often attributed to lower back pain, butt pain, and leg pain.

Exercises to strengthen your core or increase flexibility can help with pain reduction and improved mobility.

Exercises to Help Lumbar Radiculopathy

Most of the time, treating sciatic neuritis with exercises is enough, though there are exceptions. Speak to your doctor to find the right treatment for your needs.

The best exercises for lumbar radiculopathy focus on restoring the ability to move and on strengthening abdominal muscles. Improper movement can cause more harm than good. In addition to ensuring the right form, building endurance is essential.

Many of the exercises center around your hip joints and your stomach muscles. Get started with the following six exercises:

Hip Flexor Stretch

Exercises for lower back pain often begin with the hips. Use a hip flexor stretch to increase rotation and mobility.

This exercise helps your hips rotate more effectively, increasing your flexibility and making it easier to move.  

Step 1: Kneel with one knee on your mat.

Step 2: Lift the arm on the same side as the knee that is down on the ground (back knee).

Step 3: Move your raised arm back. That should make your hips move forward and your back lengthen.

Step 4: Hold that position for 20-30 seconds.

You should repeat this exercise three times.

Quadriceps Stretch

This stretch is aimed toward improving lumbar flexibility.

Step 1: Lie down, face down.

Step 2: On the side most affected by Lumbar Radiculopathy, attach a towel or therapy band to the foot. Use the towel/band to pull your heel to your butt.  

Step 3: Hold it for 1 minute.

You can repeat this stretch three times.

Bring Your Knees to Your Chest
This is a simple move that stretches out lower your back and can help with a spondylolisthesis (condition affecting the lower vertebrae of your spine).

Step 1: Lie down, knees bent.

Step 2: Bring your knees (both of them) into your chest.

Step 3: Keep them there for approximately 5-10 seconds.

Step 4: Take a break.

Repeat this exercise 5-10 times a day.

Upward dog

A common yoga pose, upward-facing dog offers a deep chest stretch and helps build your core muscles.

Step 1: Position yourself flat on the mat, face down.

Step 2: Lift your head a bit.  Put your hands beneath your shoulders with your palms down.

Step 3: Point your toes.

Step 4: Breathe out.

Step 5: Raise your body and legs off the ground by pushing through your hands and through the tops of your feet.

Step 6:  Make sure your neck is long and relaxed, and engage your thighs so they're tight while you hold the upward dog and continue breathing.

Step 7: When you hold this plank exercise, begin with 15-second intervals and slowly increase, as your core strengthens, up to 30 seconds.

Perform the upward dog pose once a day. It’s common to start your day with this popular yoga position to help you warm up your back muscles.

Crunches (Curl-ups)

Crunches isolate the muscles in your abdominal. Strengthening your abdominal muscles can help reduce sciatica pain.

Step 1: Lie on your back.

Step 2: Bend your knees, positioned at a 90-degree angle.

Step 3:  Check that your feet are about a foot away from your body and are flat on the floor.

Step 4: Place your hands on your shoulders, crossed over each other.

Step 5: Bring your stomach muscles in, tightening them.

Step 6: Lift your shoulder blades up and away from the floor.

Step 7: Keep your heads and shoulders aligned. Do not put your head down toward your chest.

Step 8: Stay for 1-2 seconds.

Step 9: Gently lower yourself back to the floor.

Complete 8-12 crunches per day to help build muscles.

Safety Considerations

To prevent further injury from your lumbar radiculopathy, your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist to ensure you've positioned your body correctly.

When you're dealing with r adiculopathy (compressed nerve in the spine), it's important to reduce or change any activities that make your pain worse. Use ice and heat to help reduce pain when needed.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

Sources: 

ACE Fitness: "Low Back Exercises: Stuart McGill's Big Three."

Cleveland Clinic: "Why a Strong Core Can Help Reduce Low Back Pain."

Harvard Health Publishing: "Sciatica: Of all the Nerve."

Johns Hopkins Medicine Health: "Radiculopathy."

Kaiser Permanente: "Care Instructions: Low Back Pain: Exercises."

Landmark Healthcare: "Lumbar Radiculopathy and Sciatica."

Princeton University Athletic Medicine: "Lumbar/Core Strength and Stability Exercises."

Stanford Health Care: "Treatments for Sciatica."

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