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A spinal disc is thinnest and weakness at the back, so if it herniates it usually does so backwards towards the spinals nerves. If the nerves are compressed by the herniating disc this can cause sciatic symptoms into the legs. Bending forward will tend to exacerbate this herniation whilst extension (backwards bending) can help reduce it.
The Cobra exercise for sciatica works on this principle. It places the lumbar spine in an extended (or arched) positon which helps draw the herniated portion of the disc forwards away from of the spinal nerve roots – reducing pain.
This exercise may be uncomfortable in your back, but after a few repetitions you should feel that your leg symptoms are lessening. If however, you feel your leg symptoms worsening, stop the exercise, as this may not be the right exercise in your case or you may not ready for these movements yet.
If you do find this exercise reduces your leg symptoms repeat this exercise regularly throughout the day (every 2-3 hours). It is also important to spare your spine by avoiding inappropriate movements and positions as this will also promote the herniation.
How to perform the Cobra Exercise for sciatica
Disclaimer: Disc herniation is only one cause of sciatica, there also many others. This exercise may not be beneficial in cases of sciatica not due to disc herniation.
- Start lying face down, resting on your forearms.
- Push through your elbows to lift your chest and shoulders and slightly arch the low back.
- Completely relax your stomach and buttocks.
- Breathe into your stomach – with each exhalation think about letting your back sink further into the floor.
- Hold this top position for 2-5 minutes.
- If lifting to your elbows feels too much, start instead by placing one fist on top of the other and then resting your chin on top. This produces less extension in the lower back and can be more comfortable in very acute sciatic complaints.
- If laying on your elbows is comfortable but symptoms do not improve you can try advancing from your elbows up onto your hands (as shown) to move the lower back into more extension.
Are you suffering from Sciatica? Click here to find out how Treatment at Dynamic Health could help.
*Images reproduced from Liebenson. C., Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies
‘The Cobra Exercise for Sciatica’ was written by Steffen Toates. Steffen is a chiropractor at Dynamic Health Chiropractic in Jersey, Channel Islands. For more infomation about Steffen click here.