The Best Back Exercises to Help Manage Sciatica

If you suffer from Sciatica, you know the irritation and problems it can cause and the impacts on your everyday life. If you have heard of sciatica but not exactly sure what it is, well, it essentially describes the symptoms of pain (mostly), and sometimes tingling and numbness that runs from the lumbar spine into the buttocks and down the back of the leg, sometimes down to the foot.

The majority of sciatica symptoms generally comes from back disorders between the L4-S1 that puts direct pressure on the lumbar nerve root.

Before we outline some recommended sciatica relieving exercises to help relief sciatica pain, its important to know that there is specialist treatment options available to help you identify the cause of your sciatica pain and treat with hands-on therapy. This can be achieved through professional spinal physio’s who provide dedicated sciatica physiotherapy services

Walking is a great back exercise. Walk whenever you can. Walk up hills, walk down hills, walk up the stairs instead of taking the lift. Go for a walk in the mornings before work, go for a walk in the evenings after work.

Get mobile and start walking again as soon as possible after you have hurt your back. Do this even if it hurts a bit. Your goal is to get moving again as quickly as you can.

At Work:

If you work at a desk, do back exercise by getting up and walking around every 20 minutes or so, even if its just just for 30 seconds or so.

If you work at a desk, keep mentally checking and adjusting your posture – don’t slouch – sit forward on your seat.

Visualise a slight curve in your back that starts at your hips, curves forward towards your stomach and back towards your shoulders. Keep lifting your shoulders and putting this curve back in place.

When You Have A Spare Moment:

  • Do 5 push ups – if you can do 25 during the course of the day, that will really make a difference. If you can’t do 5 do 3.
  • Women generally it easier to do push ups balancing on their knees, rather than their feet. If you don’t want to do a push up lying down do one leaning against a wall at 45 degrees
  • Do a few yoga stretches (Salute to the Sun).
  • Do 5 or 10 Hindu squats. These are great for strengthening your leg and muscles so they support your back better.

The more back exercise you do, the more your body adapts to it.

In some respects your body is like your car. If you use it regularly and look after it, it is likely to be reliable and serve you well. Neglect it for long periods and don’t service it and you’re asking for trouble.

Your body likes variety
Just like you, your body gets bored. Exercising the same way all the time not only bores you, but allows your body to coast and stop developing.

Exercise whenever you get the chance
It’s fine to do small amounts of activity. Your goal is to do about 30 minutes of exercise each day.

Aerobic exercise
This develops your heart and lungs and endurance. To progress your aerobic development, 20 minutes continuous exercise at an elevated heart rate is required.

You only need 3 aerobic exercise sessions per week to give your body all the exercise it needs.

Why Back Problems Tend to Hang Around

Your back is a complicated mechanical system with many moving parts. This is why the condition of the surrounding muscles are so important in supporting it and holding everything in alignment.

Studies have shown the muscles that provide support to your back behave differently to other muscles. The key difference is that they are slower to automatically “switch back on” (i.e. return to their previous level of function) after an injury or a strain.

Unless they are triggered by exercise, they can take a long time to return to their previous level of function, or they may never return to full function and so your back doesn’t get the support it needs.

When these supporting muscles are working properly, they respond to signals from your brain by clenching or bracing fractionally before a strain impacts your back. This means your back is supported as the strain arrives and so the chance of (further) injury or strain is reduced.

When this mechanism is not working properly and the muscles don’t trigger, your back is left unsupported and thus you are more likely to re-injure or strain your back.

This is why back problems can be so difficult to get rid of once you start having them and why you can become prone to recurring problems. This is also the reason regular exercise is so important – it helps to keep your supporting muscles active and able to do their job.

Strengthen Your Core Muscles So You Have Less Chance Of Injuring Your Back


1. Every bit of back exercise counts and every bit you do gives you a benefit and builds your back health.

2. Your back is central to the mechanical operations of your body. Improve your overall fitness and you also improve the condition of your back.

Why Muscle Fitness Is So Important To Your Back

The core stability muscles in people with healthy backs actually begin to brace their torso a split second before any movement takes place. By taking this action, the brain signals to these muscles to prepare for movement, so that risk of back injury is eliminated or greatly reduced.

Targeted exercise helps makes these muscles strong and flexible and reduces your chances you of injuring or re-injuring your back.

In people with a history of sciatica and back problems, these muscles are weak and this bracing action is largely reduced, or is not there at all. So as you can imagine, the chances of further injury are greatly increased.

This is probably the main reason why people with back pain and sciatica find it so hard to get rid of and why they have constant recurrences of their problem.

The Good News on Sciatica and Back Pain

The good news is that by doing back exercise in the right way, can often keep your back healthy and strong and avoid back pain issues.

There is a variety of exercises that help. Many are simple and can be learned by anybody with a bit of practice. So even if your back already hurts, or is strained, there is a good chance that you can make it better.

Note: If you’re already sick, or your back really hurts and you think you’ve injured yourself, go and see your doctor, or a health practitioner. Also read our disclaimer before you attempt any exercise.

The Not So Good News on Back Pain

If you don’t exert yourself reasonably regularly, especially as you age, the muscles supporting and surrounding your back will eventually get weak and stiff. The result is sciatica or back pain is much more likely to occur.

Then these muscles won’t be able to work well enough when you most need them to – when you put a strain on your back. It’s then much more likely that you will injure your back when you do place a strain – even a small one – on it.

Your back can get injured from an action as simple as reaching for something on your desk, sneezing, or from a more obvious strain such as lifting something heavy, especially if your posture is bad as you do it.

Sciatica Exercise – The Yoga Salute to The Sun