Reliever exercises help your back pain and/or sciatica to feel better more quickly than it would otherwise.

Always remember the “Use it or Lose it but Don’t Abuse it” principle!  This applies to these exercises too.

Broadly speaking lower back pain and sciatica sufferers fit into 3 groups.  It’s worth spending some time working out which one you’re in.

Type 1. Worse for sitting and getting up from sitting and in bending.

You’ll likely be better doing relievers that have you arching backwards, and avoiding exercises that have you bending forwards.

Type 2. Worse for standing still, and bending backwards.

You’ll likely be better doing relievers that have you curling forwards, and avoiding exercises that have you arching backwards.

Type 3. Don’t obviously fit into either of the above groups.

Try a mix of exercises.

Whichever type you think you fall into, keep observing the “Use it or Lose it but Don’t Abuse it” principle!

 

Reverse arch – Start with Level 1 and work up from here.

This exercise can be very helpful for you if your back pain or sciatica is worse sitting, or after sitting or bending forwards.

Level 1

Lie on your front

Ball your fists up and rest your chin ontop

Relax

Do not:

  • Push into pain
  • Carry on if it’s painful to do

Level 2

Lying on your front

Come up onto forearms, with elbows under shoulders

Relax in this position

 

 

Level 3

Lying on your front

Hands under shoulders

Push up so that chest is off floor

Keep hips on floor

Relax

 

 

 

Reverse arch – hips to side

Try both sides to see which one gives you relief from your sciatic pain

Lying on your front

Move hips to the side, while keeping head, shoulders and feet in the centre

Hands under shoulders

Push up so that your chest is off the floor

Relax in this position

Do not: 

  • Push into pain
  • Carry on if it’s painful to do

 

Camel

On all fours, with hands under shoulders and knees under hips

Start in neutral spine

As you lift your belly up, arch your back up towards the ceiling

At the same time, slowly bend your head down towards the floor

Go as far as you comfortably can and stop, pause

Slowly allow your back and head to return to the start, then repeat

Do not: 

Go past neutral (unless you’re combining with Cat)

 

Cat

Starting on all fours with hands under shoulders and knees under hips

Start in neutral

Slowly allow your belly to drop down towards the floor

At the same time, gradually tilt your chin up so that you come to be looking at the ceiling, pause

Slowly return to the starting position then repeat

Do not: 

  • Push past where is comfortable
  • Try to maintain an abdominal brace – relax

 

Crucifix Wobble

Lying on your back with knees bent up and feet flat on floor, arms stretched out from your sides

With very small movements, wobble your knees from side to side

Keep within your pain-free zone

The movements should be small and rhythmic so that you can relax into it

Do not: 

  • Go as far as pain
  • Go as far as stretch
  • Come to a stop while doing the exercise

 

Crucifix Stretch

Lying on your back, with knees bent up and feet flat on the floor, arms stretched out from your sides

Allow your knees to slowly fall to one side, as far as they can comfortably go without increasing your back pain/sciatica

Relax in this position, then gently return the knees to the midline and move the knees across to the other side

Repeat

Do not: 

  • Go into the pain
  • One of the sides if it’s painful to do
  • Bounce or wobble

 

Glut Stretch

Lying on your back, gradually bend one knee up so that you can grab hold of it, or grab hold behind the knee if you have a painful knee

Gently pull the knee up towards the opposite shoulder until you feel a stretching feeling in your buttock

You may need to experiment with the direction of pull, moving the knee from side to side slowly until you find the stretch

Avoid pain in the groin

Hold the stretch feeling and relax into it

Slowly lower the knee back down and repeat on the other side

Do not: 

  • Try to push past the stretch
  • Push into pain

 

Hamstring Stretch

Lying on your back, slowly bend one leg up so that you can grab behind your knee

Holding the knee at arms length, slowly straighten the leg until you feel a stretch at the back of the thigh – you may be able to pull the leg further up towards your chest if you’re super-flexible

Hold this stretch

If the stretch eases while you hold this position, gently pull the knee towards you until you feel the next position of stretch and hold this

Repeat with the other leg

Do not: 

  • Push into pain
  • Pull your leg past the initial stretch feeling until it has eased

 

Hip Flexor Stretch

This is important if you do a lot of sitting normally

Go down onto one knee, and step the other foot forward so that there is 90 degrees at the front knee

Abdominal brace

Slowly move your weight forwards while keeping your back knee on the floor and your shoulders straight above your hips

Hopefully you will feel a stretch at the top front of your back thigh/hip

If you don’t feel a strong stretch, you can take the arm above the rear leg up over your head, stretching to the opposite side

Hold this position

Repeat on the other leg

Do not: 

  • Lean your body forwards
  • Wobble or bounce

 

Sciatic Flossing

For sciatica sufferers only

Sitting on the edge of something where your knee is at least as high as your hip from the ground, but ideally with your foot hanging above the ground

Slowly straighten your knee, bringing your foot upwards as you slowly hang your head backwards, tilting chin up

Pause for 2 seconds

Then slowly bend the knee, returning your foot to rest as you bring your head to hang fully forwards

Pause for 2 seconds

Repeat

Do not: 

  • Push into pain
  • Move quickly
  • Have head forwards and foot up at the same time

 

Sitting Wobble

When sitting with spine in neutral (draw yourself up tall)

Gently wobble from hip to hip, keeping your head in the midline

Do not: 

  • Push into pain
  • Fall off your chair
  • Do while driving!

 

Standing Back Arch

Always do after getting up from sitting

Stand up nice and tall

You can either reach up and out with both hands (active Xing), or put your hands on the sides of your lower back / tops of backs of your hips

Reach up with your chest before arching backwards

Hold the position

Do not: 

  • Bend backwards without either reaching up or having hands on lower back
  • Push into pain

 

Standing Wobble

When standing in neutral

Gently push your hips from side to side, while keeping your head in the midline

Do not: 

  • Push into pain

 

Tail Wagging

Dogs have the idea…

Starting on all fours, with hands under shoulders and knees under hips

Find a comfortable “neutral” – not in full Camel or full Cat

Gently and slowly sway hips from side to side, around the centre point of your belly button

Do not: 

  • Push into pain
  • Lean your weight from side to side

 

Wall Lean

Particularly useful for one-sided sciatica and LBP

Stand with the painful side nearest to the wall, at arms length from the wall

Put hand nearest the wall on the wall at shoulder level, with palm flat

Lift the foot nearest the wall and cross it over the other one, taking your weight off it

Slowly lean your hips towards the wall, keeping a straight elbow

Reach the end of this movement, still with a straight elbow

Gently bounce 8 times – very small bounces – at this end-point

Return to normal

Repeat

You can try the other side, but basically don’t to it if it hurts!

Do not: 

  • Push into pain
  • Do both sides if one hurts