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Sciatica and Degenerative Disc Disease Exercise

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.

Lumbar stabilization exercises for sciatica

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.

These exercises should all be performed with a rigid trunk.

DDD Exercises while laying on the back

Examples of the dynamic stabilizing exercises done while on the back include:

Sciatica Exercises
Hook-lying march. While lying on the back on the floor, with knees bent and arms at sides; tighten the stomach muscles and slowly raise alternate legs to 3 to 4 inches from the floor.
Sciatica Exercises
Hook-lying march combination. Same exercise as described above, but includes raising and lowering the arm over the head.
Sciatica Exercises
Bridging. Start by lying on the back with the knees bent, then slowly raise the buttocks from the floor.
Sciatica Exercises
The pelvic tilt, tightening the lower stomach muscles and buttocks to flatten the back, can be used to find the most comfortable position for the lower back.

DDD exercises while lying on the stomach

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):

Sciatica Exercises
Raise one leg behind with the knee slightly bent and no arch in the back or neck.
Sciatica Exercises
Lying face down, with elbows straight and arms stretched above the head, raise one arm and the opposite leg 2 to 3 inches off the floor.

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:

Sciatica Exercises
Raise one leg behind with the knee slightly bent and no arch in the back or neck.
Sciatica Exercises
For a slightly more advanced exercise, raise one leg with the knee slightly bent and no arch in the back or neck and also raise the opposite arm.