Is Pilates Good for Sciatica?

As one of the largest nerves in the body, the sciatic nerve controls most of your lower body sensorimotor activity. Anything that puts pressure on the sciatic nerve may cause an irritation. This pain and numbness, called sciatica, is the symptom of another problem such as spinal stenosis, degenerated disc, pelvic instability and piroformis syndrome. Pilates exercises won't cure these conditions, but they may alleviate the symptoms.



While it's unlikely that Pilates will cause sciatica, certain exercises might exacerbate a pre-existing sciatic condition, says physical therapist and Pilates instructor Brent Anderson of Polestar Pilates. Instructors in Polestar Education's rehabilitation tract are advised to select exercises appropriate to the condition. Pilates flexion exercises, for example, might benefit people with spinal stenosis, but people with degenerative discs do best with extension exercises. Most people with any type of sciatica should avoid exercises such as "rolling like a ball," which involves rolling back and forth on your spine.


Meticulous form always plays a key role in Pilates exercise, but it is even more important for people with sciatica. While the classical Pilates method involved keeping the lower back imprinted into the mat when lying supine, the evolved method maintains the neutral spine. This is crucial if you have sciatica, since forcing your spine into the floor, tilting your pelvis and excessively squeezing your gluteal muscles causes your back and butt muscles to compensate for your abdominals. In addition, avoid excessive external hip rotation and using too many springs on the equipment.

Mat Exercises

Exercises such as the cat, which involves kneeling on all fours and rounding the lower back, may alleviate sciatica symptoms caused by spinal stenosis. The swan preparation is best for people with herniated discs. Lie prone, with your elbows and forearms on the floor and your fingers under your shoulders. Slowly lift your head, neck and chest from the floor and extend your upper spine. Return with control and perform five repetitions.

Equipment Exercises

Some Pilates rehab specialists, such as Chrissy Romani Ruby of PHI Pilates, use the Pilates chair for clients with sciatica. If spinal stenosis causes the condition, Romani-Ruby has the client use the chair from the standing position by bending at the waist, rounding her lower back and pushing down against the pedals. Clients with herniated or degenerated discs lie face-down on the machine with their hands against the pedals. They push down against the pedals as they extend their spines.


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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or