Hold it right there! Yes you, hold it. Now hold it even longer.
This isn’t a stick up—it’s the guiding principle behind a 13-minute stretch series meant to relieve sciatica or sciatic nerve pain.
“Sciatica is an umbrella term that refers to a shooting pain that goes down the leg, typically from the back though the buttock and the back of the thigh and all the way down the leg,” Charles Kim, MD, assistant professor in the Departments of Rehabilitation Medicine and Anesthesiology at NYU Langone, previously told Well+Good. It’s caused by compression of the sciatic nerve, which runs from the low back down to the foot. And it can be brought on by a number of different activities, like sitting still for long periods of time or engaging in high-impact exercises that put a lot of pressure on your hips.
It’s possible to strength train to relieve and prevent sciatica. But you should also consider stretching out that lower body to help create some space.
One of the best ways to do that is by targeting your glutes and hamstrings, which include the piriformis muscle.
“The piriformis lays over the sciatic nerve, which is why releasing that muscle is really important to relieve symptoms of sciatic nerve tension or sciatica,” says East River Pilates trainer Brian Spencer.
To do that, Spencer will take you through a series of stretches that will loosen things up. You’ll begin on your back, using a band or towel to aid you in bringing one leg at a time in the air where you’ll flex and extend it. You’ll also do full and half pigeon to release your hips, and you’ll “wag the tail” in a downward dog to create some movement.
But the key to it all is really letting your body get into those positions, and holding them until you feel a difference.
“We’re gonna take it nice and slow,” Spencer says. “Especially if you’re feeling any tension in that sciatic nerve, we’ll be really holding some stretches to help us allow for those muscles around that nerve to release.” Ahhhhh, that’s the spot.