Yoga is often though of a fantastic way to relieve sciatica pain in a safe and low threshold environment. In fact, I love yoga and practice it a few times a week. I even interviewed a yoga professional on one of my earlier podcast episodes!
One of the more common poses you’ll see in yoga is the child’s pose. This is where you rest on your shins, place your hands overhead and lean your forehead on the floor. It’s like you are doing the “I’m not worthy” pose from Wayne’s World.
It’s often thought that this pose can help out with sciatica and you’ll see it in a lot of sciatica stretching programs. Because of it’s popularity, I get asked if this truly is a good stretch for sciatica pain. The answer is, yes but under specific circumstances:
1) Spinal stenosis (foramina stenosis specifically)- if you have arthritis in the spine which is causing a pinch on the nerves this can be helpful. We want to focus on opening up the spine. This can be diagnosed via MRI or x-ray.
2) Tight low back muscles- we’re thinking the quadratus lumborum. This muscle attaches from the top of your pelvis to the base of your ribs. If these muscles get tight and overactive, they will pull on the spine, causing a pinch on the nerves exiting the spine. This will apply a gentle stretch to this muscle allowing the tissues to move freely. This can be felt immediately in the child’s pose if a stretch is felt.
3) Your spine prefers forward bending. This would be classified as flexion preference, meaning that your nervous system prefers this rather than bending backwards.
Here are the conditions in which this stretch will not be helpful:
1) Herniated disc- if the disc is bulging, herniated, extruded backwards (posteriorly) or back and towards one side (posterior laterally), then this stretch may exacerbate the disc itself and make your pain worse
2) Weak low back musculature- muscles don’t just get weak. This is often a result of a muscle that is too tight (in which this stretch could help), or overstretched. If you are sitting for long periods of time and have a relative ‘flat back’, then these muscles, specifically the quadratus lumborum, is probably in the stretched position. If you stretch an already stretched muscle, there really is no benefit to this and can further facilitate its weakness.
3) Knees and shins cannot tolerate this pressure- The child’s pose rests on the shins and knees. You can reduce the load on the knees by kneeling on a pillow or mat, but this might not be enough of a cushion.
4) Your body prefers backward bending, also known as extension tolerant. This often occurs if you spend a lot of hour sitting. The body craves variety and the reality is that we need to find the positions that make us feel the best when in an active state of pain.
The child’s pose is a great stretch, for some people. There are many other alternatives out there such as the double knees to chest (if you prefer bending forward) or a prone press up (if you prefer bending backward).
The truth is that you do not deserve to wait in suffering. There are tools and people out there to help you.
Have you implemented the child’s pose into your day? Does it help?