Bending over to touch your toes to relieve back pain is a common practice. However, this is one of the sciatica exercises to avoid.

10 Worst Sciatica Exercises to Avoid

Sciatica is a nerve pain that is felt down the back and into the hips and leg. It can be temporary or chronic. If after three months, sciatica not going away then it’s chronic.

Sciatica is also known as ischias, nerve root pain, lumbosacral radicular syndrome, and nerve root entrapment.

It is caused by a herniated disc and nerve root compression.

You can stop sciatica pain by medication and exercises. However, some exercises are unsuitable if you have sciatica.

This article will show you sciatica exercises to avoid.

But we must first understand a few things about the condition.


10 Worst Sciatica Exercises to Avoid

The compression of the sciatic nerve is what leads to sciatica. The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest in the body.

When it is compressed, it can cause a lot of pain and disability.

A herniated disc frequently causes sciatica. This means that a disc in the spine has moved and put additional pressure on the sciatic nerve. The spinal column then loses the ability to move, bend or retain flexibility.

Other causes of sciatica are:


This is a condition that causes the spinal column to narrow. This can be caused by age-related wear and tear of the spine.


A sudden impact on the spinal column can cause a herniated disc.


Chronic inflammatory conditions can trap sciatic nerves can lead to sciatic pain.

Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis can make sciatica flare, and the pain gets worse.

Treating the condition can relieve sciatica.


A mass near the spine can trap spinal nerves leading to sciatica. Epidural hematoma, a swollen blood clot near the spine, can also cause sciatic pain.

If you have sciatica, it’s important to get medical attention to confirm if you have cancer, especially if you have chronic sciatica.


People with obesity, sedentary lives and smokers are at higher risk of sciatica. These conditions and habits also increase the healing time for sciatica.


A rare form of TB called tuberculous sacroiliitis or sacroiliac joint tuberculosis could cause sciatica.

It happens when the lung infection creates an abscess that spreads to the sacroiliac joint. This is a joint in the pelvis and lower spine.


Chronic spinal conditions like scoliosis can pressure the space between the vertebrae, which can lead to herniated discs.

Here are the ten worst sciatica exercises to avoid.


This is an exercise that integrates the full body and targets the arms and back. It’s an exercise that’s easy to have poor form when executing.

Studies show that this exercise puts you at risk for disc herniation. This means that it can make your sciatica worse.

It’s generally not advisable to round your back when doing weighted exercises.


Hamstrings are muscles on the back of the leg. Stretching your hamstrings helps release tight thighs. This is especially useful for people who have a job that requires a lot of sitting.

However, this is one of the sciatica exercises to avoid. The sciatic nerve runs through the hamstrings, making you feel like your hamstrings are making your sciatica flare-up.

Doing the seated hamstring stretch can aggravate your symptoms.

Bending forward to touch your toes puts a stretch on your spine which would provoke sciatica symptoms.


The double leg lift requires you to lift both legs at the same time. This engages your core and back. They are a very effective ab and back strengthening exercise.

However, double leg lifts can aggravate sciatic pain.

A trained dancer’s case study found that putting too much strain on muscles that aren’t strong enough to support the movements involved in hyper-stretching can cause injury or worsen sciatica.

If your abs are weak, the weight of your legs falls on your back. This kind of strain increases the risk of a herniated disc.


These are exercises that have you swinging your legs in a full circle. They may cause your hamstring to stretch suddenly, which can irritate the sciatic nerve.

Circuit training, Pilates and some yoga moves may engage your muscles this way. If you have sciatica or show symptoms, it’s best to stop right away.


This yoga pose poses the same risk as to the seated hamstring stretch. In this exercise, you are bending over with your legs straight and your arms ahead of you forming a V.

The pose stretches your hamstrings and may exacerbate sciatica symptoms.


Full body squats are an effective exercise to strengthen your lower body muscles.

Squats are another one of the sciatica exercises to avoid because they pressure the lower back, which can worsen nerve damage.


Lifting weights can apply additional pressure on the spinal column.

If you have a slipped disc, weightlifting further damages the disc and irritates the nerve.

Even if you have a healthy spine, only lift weights if you have adequate lower back support.


High impact exercises like running can make sciatica worse.

Running doesn’t cause sciatica, but the force of impact from striking the ground repeatedly can irritate the sciatic nerve.

While it’s possible to run with sciatica, it’s best to consult your doctor first. If you want to run and have sciatica, make sure to run briefly, with shorter strides and softer surface than asphalt.

You may also need to get running shoes with built-in support to reduce your legs and back pressure.


These require you to twist your lower back.

The action of moving your lower back against your spine can further displace your herniated disc.

Rotating stretches also add pressure to your back, pelvis and spine which can worsen sciatica symptoms.


Bending over to touch your toes to relieve back pain is a common practice. However, this is one of the sciatica exercises to avoid.

Touch-you-toes stretches additional pressure on your discs. Such stretches are effective for strengthening your back, but if you have sciatica, the stretch compresses the disc, and the sciatic nerve gets irritated.


The most common symptoms of sciatica are:

-electric sensations in the leg

-pain in the lower back, hip and leg

-leg cramps

-numbness in hips, leg and lower back

-pain when coughing

You may also find yourself struggling to walk with sciatica.

It’s possible to treat sciatica by taking anti-inflammatory painkillers, muscle relaxants, narcotic painkillers, tricyclic antidepressants and anti-seizure medications.

Steroid injections around the nerve root can help reduce pain.

Surgery is also an option when the compressed nerve causes incontinence, weakness and other treatments are working.

Some exercises also help with sciatica such as low impact aerobic exercises like swimming, hip flexor stretches and child’s pose.

Sciatica exercises in bed like the happy baby pose and lying on your back with knees bent and alternating leg lifts can help ease sciatic pain.

Make sure to stop if you feel any extra pain and add that stretch to your list of sciatica exercises to avoid.


Sciatica can go away on its own or with treatment.

Ensure you see a doctor if the pain lasts longer than three months, interferes with your daily activities, goes away, and then returns or gets steadily worse.


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