HOW MAT-BASED STRETCHES RELIEVE BACK PAIN
“Sciatic pain is often related to the wear and tear of aging, which is why the risk goes up with time,” says Mara Vucich, D.O., a physician at the Maryland Spine Center at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore. Sciatica can feel like aching or tingling that starts in the lower back and radiates down the back of the legs. It’s often caused by degenerative changes in the lumbar spine, but can also be caused when the sciatic nerve gets pinched by the piriformis muscle, which connects the lower back and pelvis to the hips. And while staying active is often recommended to ease back pain, Dr. Vucich says some forms of exercise can trigger sciatic discomfort if the muscles in the abs and glutes are weak.
The easy solution: Pilates-based exercises. “These moves strengthen the core muscles, glutes, pelvis and lower back,” says Risë Stokstad, a Pilates Master Practitioner based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This loosens the piriformis muscle, stabilizes the pelvis and hips and takes pressure off the lumbar spine to prevent or eliminate symptoms. To get these benefits, follow Elisha Lowe’s lead and do these moves two or three times per week.
This move strengthens the back and loosens the piriformis muscle.
TO DO: Start on all fours. Contract your abs and squeeze your glutes as you lift and extend your right arm and left leg until they’re parallel to the floor. Hold for two seconds. Return to start. Repeat on the other side. Do five reps.
This move stretches the piriformis muscle and strengthens the glutes to stabilize the pelvis.
TO DO: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet hip-width apart and arms by your sides. Slowly lift your hips off the floor until your body is in a straight line from knees to shoulders. Squeeze your glutes and abs and hold for two seconds. Slowly lower your hips to the floor. Do
This move activates the abdominals and multifidus muscles around the spine to strengthen the core.
TO DO: Lie facedown on a mat with your legs straight and arms extended. Simultaneously raise your arms, legs, and chest a few inches off the floor and hold for two seconds while squeezing your glutes and pressing your pubic
bone to the floor. Slowly lower back to starting position. Do 10 reps.