While degenerative disc disease most often causes low back pain, if a degenerated disc impinges on a nerve root in the low back it can also cause a form of sciatica.
The form of exercise typically recommended for treating disc degeneration and the sciatica that results is a dynamic lumbar stabilization program.
Alleviating sciatic pain caused by degenerative disc disease includes finding the most comfortable position for the lumbar spine and pelvis and training the body to maintain this position during activities. In doing this correctly, one can improve the proprioception (sense of movement) of the lumbar spine and reduce the excess motion at the spinal segments. This will in turn reduce the amount of irritation at these segments, relieving pain and protecting the area from further damage.
These dynamic lumbar stabilization exercise often require specific hands on instruction because they offer much less benefit if done incorrectly, and they tend to be much more difficult than they appear. This type of exercise program is progressive, starting with the easier exercises and advancing to the more difficult exercises once the lower level program is mastered. The most important aspect of using these sciatica exercises is sensing and controlling the motion of the spine. Once learned, the body can eventually take over and do this without the level of concentration it takes early on.
Examples of the dynamic stabilizing exercises done while on the back include:
This same pelvic position (tightening the lower stomach muscles to flatten the lower back) is maintained while performing stabilizing exercises from the prone position (lying flat on the stomach):
Similar stabilizing exercises can be done in the 4 point position (kneeling on hands and knees), raising the arms and legs only as high as can be controlled, maintaining a stable trunk and avoiding any twisting or sagging: