Problem-solving stretches: How to slacken hip tension to release sciatic pain

  • Any cross body twist will stretch your outer hip muscles. Sit with one knee crossed over the other and turn slightly toward the top leg until you feel a gentle stretch in the outer hipon that side. STAFF PHOTOS/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Any cross body twist will stretch your outer hip muscles. Sit with one knee crossed over the other and turn slightly toward the top leg until you feel a gentle stretch in the outer hip on that side. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Any cross body twist will stretch your outer hip muscles. Sit with one knee crossed over the other and turn slightly toward the top leg until you feel a gentle stretch in the outer hip on that side. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Slacken your hip rotator muscles in Half Frog position. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Slacken your hip rotator muscles in Half Frog position —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • To come out of the position, slowly straighten your bent leg, sliding it off the pillows and down beside the other leg. Then switch sides. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • To come out of the position, slowly straighten your bent leg, sliding it off the pillows and down beside the other leg. Then switch sides. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Slacken your hip rotator muscles in Half Frog position —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • To come out of the position, slowly straighten your bent leg, sliding it off the pillows and down beside the other leg. Then switch sides. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Slacken your hip rotator muscles in Half Frog position

  • To come out of the position, slowly straighten your bent leg, sliding it off the pillows and down beside the other leg. Then switch sides.

For the Gazette
Published: 7/16/2019 8:01:16 AM

School let out early last month, so my kiddo and I snuck in an extra visit to Grammy and Poppy. It’s a long way to Western Virginia — 11 hours — but an easy journey via Amtrak, especially since my kid still loves trains. When he was little, we’d walk the aisles multiple times each trip, sometimes finding an empty car to serve as a jungle gym. Now that he’s hit double digits, we spent most of the day in our seats, each deep in our own chapter book — quite different than traveling with a little kid.

My body did not like the difference. Because I sat — no, let’s be honest — I lounged. Curled into the seat with my legs and hips tucked under me. When I did get up for a snack or bathroom break, I could feel the stiffness in my body. Ugh. I should know better! Apparently, I can no longer rely on kid wiggles to get me moving. The resulting sharp pain in my rear was no fun.

Sciatica. The word makes us tense. The condition is named for the sciatic nerve which runs from the vertebrae in our low back and sacrum, down each leg, sending signals to our legs and feet.

When we sit with our hips tucked under, sitting on the flesh of our buttocks rather than with our pelvis upright, we put pressure on our sciatic nerves and the muscles that surround them. These muscles are designed mainly to rotate our hips, not hold our full weight. When we use them as seat cushions, they tense up. And this tension can squeeze the sciatic nerve.

Some people feel sciatica as a deep ache in the buttocks. Others experience a sleeve of discomfort around the thigh. And still others feel a sharp shooting pain down the back of the leg. Regardless of where and how sciatica strikes, releasing the hold from the hip rotator muscles can bring ease. Here are two simple ways to do just that — gentle stretching and muscle slackening.

Stretch your outer hip muscles with a gentle twist. Any cross body twist will do this: sit with one knee crossed over the other and turn slightly toward the top leg until you feel a gentle stretch in the outer hip on that side. If you feel no stretch at all from sitting cross legged, try bringing your top leg farther across your body. It also works to lie on your back and bring one knee across toward the floor on the opposite side. Stretch gently for 30 seconds to one minute on each side 5-6 times each day.

Slacken your hip rotator muscles in Half Frog position, then lie on your belly with one knee out to the side, bent at a right angle, and supported by a pillow or pillows. Support your whole leg with the pillows, don’t have your foot or shin hanging off or a gap at your groin. Otherwise, the muscles will have to work to support your leg, and working muscles can’t slacken.

There should be no pain in this position. If you feel pain, adjust your knee toward your body or away, until you find a comfy spot. You can also raise or lower the height of your leg by adding or removing pillows. Over time, you’ll learn the “just right” spot for your body.

Let your body rest facing down, not turned toward the raised leg. You can rest your forehead on your hands or turn your head toward your raised knee. Stay in this relaxed, supported position for at least 2 minutes, allowing the muscle tension in your hip to slacken.

To come out of the position, slowly straighten your bent leg, sliding it off the pillows and down beside the other leg. Then switch sides.

Pain Specialist Ginny Hamilton studied Integrated Positional Therapy (IPT) with its founder, Lee Albert at the Kripalu Center in Lenox, MA. A certified yoga instructor and Reiki Master Teacher, Hamilton offers classes and private sessions in Amherst, Hadley, and South Hadley. Contact her at: ginny@ginnyhamilton.com




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