Self Help Tips for Sciatica

Posted by Stuart Hinds on

Sciatica most often occurs when the sciatic nerve is compressed by a herniated disk or bone spur

Diagram of the sciatic nerve as it branches from the spine

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body, beginning at the lower back, and running through the hips and buttocks down to each leg. In most cases, sciatica affects only one side of the body.

Sciatica is a symptom of an underlying medical condition, such as a lumbar herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, or spinal stenosis. It is not a medical condition in and of itself. 

Sciatica most often occurs when the sciatic nerve is compressed by a herniated disk or bone spur. 

This causes inflammation, pain, and sometimes numbness in the affected side.

Some cases of sciatic pain can also be due to an irritation of the sciatic nerve during pregnancy.


Trigger Point Therapy

Trigger point therapy can be very effective for treating the symptoms of sciatica.

In most cases the pain is associated with trigger points in the gluteus maximus and piriformis muscles. 

If your therapist practices trigger point therapy, he or she will likely advise 2 or 3 treatment sessions within a short period of time (7 - 10 days). In this period you should usually begin to feel positive results. 

Your therapist may also prescribe or advise a number of self-help stretches and exercises for you to perform at home between treatments.

In most cases, your likelihood of a successful outcome will increase if you do your 'homework'.

Below we've provided details of 5 of the exercises which we often prescribe for clients who we are treating for sciatica.


1. Sciatic Mobilising Stretch

The sciatic mobilising stretch

Start position


  • Lie on your back
  • Place a small flat cushion or book under your head
  • Bend your knees and keep your feet straight and hip-width apart
  • Keep your upper body relaxed and your chin gently tucked in


  • Bend one knee up towards your chest and grasp your hamstring with both hands below the knee
  • Slowly straighten the knee while bringing your foot towards you
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds, taking deep breaths
  • Bend the knee and return to the starting position


  • Don’t press your low back down into the floor as you stretch
  • Only stretch as far as is comfortable, and stop immediately if you feel any pain, numbness or tingling Repeat two or three times, alternating legs, twice daily.


2. Alternating arm and leg raises (Superman)

Alternating arm and leg raises


  • Lie on stomach, arms reached out past your head with palms and forehead on the floor
  • Tighten abdominal muscles
  • Lift one arm (as you raise your head and shoulders) and the opposite leg at the same time, stretching them away from each other
  • Hold for 5 seconds and then switch sides 
  • Repeat 5 - 10 times each side, twice daily


3. Peroneal Stretch

The peroneal stretch


  • Sit in a chair with one ankle resting on the other knee
  • With your hands, point the foot (plantarflex) and turn the sole of the foot upwards (invert)
  • Hold for between 30-50 seconds 3 times each side, twice daily. 


4. Lumbar Spine Mobilisations

Lumbar spine mobilisation


  • Lay down on all fours
  • Place one hand behind the back
  • While the opposite hand remains on the floor
  • Rotate the upper body (side that the arm is behind the back) with the elbow pointing to the sky as far as possible
  • Return to start position
  • Repeat 5-10 times each side, twice daily


5. McKenzie Extension

The McKenzie Extension stretch


Start position:

  • Lie on your stomach, and prop yourself on your elbows, lengthening your spine
  • Keep your shoulders back and neck long


  • Keeping your neck long, arch your back up by pushing down on your hands
  • You should feel a gentle stretch in the stomach muscles as you arch backwards
  • Breathe and hold for 5 to 10 seconds
  • Return to the starting position
  • Repeat 3 times, twice daily


Ready for More? Try this related course: 

Sciatica - Trigger Point Master Class

Sciatica: Trigger Point Master Class


About the author

Stuart Hinds is one of Australia’s leading soft tissue therapists, with over 27 years of experience as a practitioner, working with elite sports athletes, supporting Olympic teams, educating and mentoring others as well as running a highly successful clinic in Geelong.

Stuart has a strong following of practitioners across Australia and globally who tap into his expertise as a soft-tissue specialist. He delivers a range of highly sought after seminars across Australia, supported by online videos, webinars and one-on-one mentoring to help support his colleagues to build successful businesses.

In 2016, Stuart was awarded a lifetime membership to Massage & Myotherapy Australia for his significant support and contribution to the industry.

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This trigger point therapy blog is intended to be used for information purposes only and is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or to substitute for a medical diagnosis and/or treatment rendered or prescribed by a physician or competent healthcare professional. This information is designed as educational material, but should not be taken as a recommendation for treatment of any particular person or patient. Always consult your physician if you think you need treatment or if you feel unwell. 

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