9 Sciatica Exercises To Avoid – The ULTIMATE List

Sciatica Exercises To Avoid

Exercises are generally helpful for a healthy body and in the control of sciatica pains. They are meant to relax your nerves and relieve stress in your body. However, to benefit from exercise in controlling sciatica, you must carry out the right exercises using the right method. This’s because there are some sciatica exercises to avoid due to their negative effects on sciatica.

Sciatica is the pain and numbness that runs from the lower back down to the legs. Different people experience sciatica in different ways. To some people, it could be sharp jolts of pain, while to others, it could be a stabbing or burning pain.

So, in this article, we’ll be discussing some of the exercises to avoid if you’re suffering from sciatic pains.

What Are Sciatica Exercises?

Sciatica exercises are exercises that are meant to resolve sciatica pains. Such exercises are supposed to be controlled and progressive in nature. Sciatica occurs when there’s pressure on the sciatic nerve leading to pain and inflammation or shock in the lower back and legs. The pressure results from spinal stenosis or herniated spinal disk. This brings disruption in the spinal column making it challenging to bend and stay flexible due to pain.

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. It moves from the lumbar spinal region down to the feet. Recently sciatica has become one of the common pain conditions with many people in the population. It’s more prominent in people between 40 to 60 years.  The great influencers of sciatica include smoking, obesity, and a sedentary or inactive lifestyle. If your work involves lifting heavy objects always, you’re likely to have sciatica pains with time.

Although exercises have a positive impact on our lifestyle, you need to do the right ones. You must know some sciatica exercises to avoid if you’re experiencing pains.

9 Sciatica Exercises To Avoid

Exercises can be a better option in managing your sciatica pains than ordinary bed rest. However, there are still sciatica exercises to avoid.  This is because you may be aggravating the sciatic nerves instead of managing them with such exercises.

We’ve compiled some of the exercises to avoid in managing your sciatica condition:

1. Hamstring sitting stretch

This is one exercise that a lot of people misuse in sciatica pain management. Most persons receive information that a sitting hamstring stretch will bring relief to sciatica pain. You might be given this erroneous information by a physiotherapist or even a personal trainer. The truth is that you are making the sciatic pain condition worse.

Hamstring sitting stretch

Hamstrings are the muscles at the back of the legs. The hamstrings become stiff when you sit for a long period, especially if you’re an office worker. You may also experience such stiffness if you’re an athlete. In those cases, stretching of the hamstrings will help to relax the muscle and remove the stiffness. However, this is not advisable for sciatica conditions. This is because it’s the sciatic nerves that cause the pain rather than the hamstrings. Thus, hamstring stretches inflict more harm to the nerves which are under the hamstring. Exercises like the hamstring stretch put a stretch on the spinal and invariably on the sciatic nerves. Generally, nerves do not like stretches. This is because stretching increases their sensitivity which results in more pains.

2. Double leg lift

When you engage in double leg lift, you will put pressure on your lower back, abdominal muscles, and your legs. This pressure increases sciatic pain due to the overstretching of the muscles in those areas. Also, check if you have feeble abs before engaging in doubled leg lift. To know it, check if your pelvis moves when you lift your legs. If it does, then you have feeble abs. This is why you can’t do the double leg lift because your lower back takes the weight of your legs in the exercise. This will invariably increase your chance of disc herniation. Thus, you can worsen your sciatica condition or may even inflict injuries on yourself using the double leg lift.

Double leg lift

3. Bent-Over Row

This is an exercise that works for the entire body and perfectly well for your arms and back. Though this exercise is beneficial to the body, it can also increase your sciatic pain if you use the wrong approach. With the moves involved in the bent-over row, you may have a herniated disc and compression on your sciatic nerves.

Bent-Over Row

4. Full-Body squat

If you have sciatica, you should completely avoid this exercise. This is because a full-body squat exerts pressure on the lower back, disrupting the sciatic nerve and causes spinal injury. The exercise also puts a strain on the legs and thighs, increasing your sciatic pains.

Full-Body squat

5. Leg circles

This exercise demands that you swing your legs in a circle. As you do so, you’re stretching your hamstrings and invariably stimulating the sciatic nerve. This causes an aggravating effect on the nerves, thereby increasing sciatica. So, you should consciously avoid some yoga poses and Pilates moves that expose you to leg circles.

Leg circles
Source: https://blog.healthadvocate.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Leg-Circles.jpg

6. Abdominal stretches

Abdominal stretch is one of the sciatica exercises to avoid if you want relief from sciatic pains. This exercise puts a strain on both your lower back and the spinal column. The strain has wear and tear effect on the spinal disc and may even result in spinal injury. So, you should definitely avoid abdominal stretches to decrease your sciatica pain.

Abdominal stretches

7. Weightlifting

This exercise puts your body in a squat like position. It also needs the right support for your lower back. Weightlifting exerts pressure on your spinal column. Where you already have herniated disc, weightlifting will cause more damage to the nerves. This means that you stand a higher risk of sciatica and spinal injury using this exercise. So you should totally avoid it.


8. Rotating stretches

This exercise is good for people with healthy backs. Where you have symptoms of sciatica, you should definitely avoid it. You cause your pelvic area to move towards your lower back when you do these exercises. Rotating stretches displaces the herniated disc in your spinal system, thereby aggravating the sciatic nerves. This will increase your sciatica symptoms to the worst level.

Rotating stretches

9. Touch the toes bends

If you’re having sciatic pains, it’s very wrong to engage in this exercise. This is because where there is back pain, your stretching should be backward and not forward. “Touch the toes bends” makes you stretch forward and put more pressure on your spinal column. This will increase the displacement of your herniated disc and cause more pain.

Touch the toes bends

Use Of Exercise For Sciatica Relief

For an exercise to give sciatica relief, it should produce the following effects:

  • The exercise should be able to increase leg movement.
  • Stimulate the spinal tissues to work efficiently.
  • Ease acute pains in sciatic nerves
  • Offer soft tissue and muscle functioning.
  • Minimize or stop sciatic pains relapse.
  • Increase the functioning of the sciatic nerves.

You can achieve sciatica relief while using the right and recommended exercises. To achieve this, the recommended exercises, you must follow a planned pattern. You also have to use a progressive and repetitive approach in such exercises to get the desired results.

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In situations when the sciatica condition worsens, you can reduce your mobility and have some rest. However, you must be careful not to elongate your period of inactivity as this could pose a big threat to sciatic pains. Instead, you could affect some tissue changes which will bring sciatica relief using the right exercises in the following ways:

  • Strengthening the bone condition: You can strengthen your bones and improve their health condition with the right exercises. Studies show that even in cases of osteoporosis, a recommended exercise can alleviate pain in the bones. You will achieve this when the bone becomes more healthy and strong.
  • Increasing the flexibility of the sciatic nerves: You can increase the flexibility of the sciatic nerves and the surrounding tissues using the recommended exercises. When you make the right moves, the stiff sciatic nerves will relax. This will also increase the flow of blood and nutrients in the nerves, thereby keeping them healthy and pain-free.
  • Building strong muscles: Strong spinal muscles provide great support to the spine and the sciatic nerves. When the spinal column and the discs have the right stability they require, there will be less injury and irritation on the sciatic nerves. This will invariably control sciatica. You can strengthen your spinal muscles using well-recommended exercises.
  • Increasing blood flow in spinal muscles: Using the right exercises will increase blood flow in spinal muscles. When more blood flows to those muscles, it will reduce the irritation in the sciatic nerve as well as pains.
  • Enhancing healthy spinal disc: With the right exercises, you will create the process of more nutrient flow to the spinal discs. Since the discs are spongy, it will reduce their rate of herniation under pressure. Instead, they will only squeeze out water and nutrients under pressure. This will ensure good health for the discs and the sciatic nerves.

Exercises for sciatica pain

Some sciatica conditions can get better on their own with time. However, you can use the right exercises to manage your sciatica condition. Such exercises are meant to focus on the fundamental conditions that produce the pains and bring solutions for them. This is basically where there are no extreme symptoms such as loss of bladder or bowel control.

Below are some of the exercises we’ve compiled to give you relief from sciatica:

1. Standing Hamstring Stretch

This exercise targets the stiffness in your hamstrings.

  • Keep your right foot on a raised platform such that it is at the same level as your hip.
  • Stretch your foot, keeping both your toes and leg straight. You can slightly bend your knee in the process.
  • Let your body move slightly forward towards your foot. Ensure that you do not stretch much as this could cause more pain. Keep your moves gentle and slow.
  • Set the hip of your raised leg downward instead of upward.
  • Keep the stretching for 30 seconds and repeat for the other foot.
Standing Hamstring Stretch

2. Sitting spinal stretch

This is another exercise that will ease your sciatica symptoms.

  • Sit on the mat upright and spread your legs in front of you with your hands on your thighs.
  • Cross your right foot over to your left thigh while bending your right knee.
  • Bend your left knee, placing your left ankle towards your right buttock side.
  • Keep your right hand behind you with your fingertips on the floor. With your left hand raised up, turn your body gently to the right.
  • Place your left hand on your bent right knee, taking deep breaths and exhaling as you turn. Repeat for the other side.

3. Knee to chest stretch

This exercise will help to strengthen your abs and spinal muscles.

  • Lie on a mat on your back facing upwards.
  • Put a small cushion on your head.
  • Straighten your feet while you bend your knees.
  • Bend a knee towards your chest, holding it with your two hands for at least 20 seconds. Take deep breaths in this position and repeat for the other leg.
Knee to chest stretch

Tips on how to evade exercise injury with sciatic pains

The following tips will help you to escape injury during exercises when you’re showing symptoms of sciatica.

1. Easy beginning

You don’t need to begin your exercises with a complex one when you have sciatica. Always select the simple and easy exercises for a start. Also, take only short intervals in your exercise. You can keep the timing to be less than 10 minutes to avoid stressing your sciatic nerves. If you like, you may try walking or swimming, which are less energetic for you.

2. Getting your lower back ready

You may use the heating therapy on the lower back and legs for up to 10 minutes. This will excite your body tissues there and quicken the flow of blood around them. They will be flexible and less strenuous, thereby preventing you from injuries during your exercises.

3. Correct exercising posture

When you take a correct exercising posture, you’re bound to evade any possible injury. A correct posture also protects you from putting more pressure on your herniated disc and reduces your sciatic pains. A combination of a correct posture and the right exercise gives your faster relief from sciatica. 

4. Regular exercising

You will have a higher chance of getting better from sciatica when you take the right exercises regularly. The exercises help to build up your spinal muscles and also strengthen the sciatic nerves. This reduces the pains and aggravation on the nerves, thereby reducing the sciatica symptoms.


Sciatica can be quite irritating and painful. Sciatica mainly occurs, among others, by the irritation of the sciatic nerves and the herniation of the spinal discs. Engaging in some exercises without guidance may inflict more pain on you and also cause more spinal injury. This is why you have to know some sciatica exercises to avoid when trying to improve your sciatica condition and stop the irritation of the sciatic nerves.

You can improve your sciatica condition by living a healthy life through your nutrition and using the right exercises. Such exercises must be recommended by your doctor and guided by a professional to avoid complications in your health condition.

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