Some people may find that walking helps relieve sciatica pain. However, it is important to have a good walking technique to reduce the risk of worsening pain.

Sciatica is a type of nerve pain caused by the compression of the sciatic nerve. Symptoms can present as pain, numbness, and pins and needles along the nerve’s distribution, which begins in the lower back or hip and runs down one or both legs.

This article explores whether walking may be beneficial for people with sciatica. It also discusses some tips on walking with the condition.

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Whether a person should walk and how much they should walk with sciatica may depend on the underlying condition causing sciatica and their pain level.

Sciatica can occur due to a condition that compresses or causes an impact on the sciatic nerve or its roots.

Health professionals generally recommend people with sciatica continue moving instead of resting and remaining in bed for too long.

A doctor may encourage people to begin with stretching exercises and take short walks as soon as possible.

Rehabilitation for sciatica generally involves modifying activity to encourage people to stay as active as possible without irritating the nerve and causing pain.

Physical activity is essential: Delaying returning to a person’s regular physical activities may lead to worse outcomes.

Physical activity may also help reduce inflammation, which in turn can help a person manage sciatica pain.

A 2018 review of studies found that walking may be beneficial for reducing pain and disability and can help manage chronic low back pain.

Learn about the best exercises for sciatica here.

While walking may help a person manage sciatica, it is important not to do activities that may worsen the pain.

A doctor may recommend a person take shorter walks. A person may wish to gradually build up the length of time they walk. Taking breaks when they feel they need to is also important.

Doctors may also recommend a person start taking short walks on flat, unpaved surfaces. They may find this easier than walking on unpaved surfaces and going uphill or downhill.

It is best for a person to avoid bending or twisting movements, as this may worsen symptoms.

A physical therapist can help a person develop a good walking technique and increase their level of physical activity over time. They can advise on how much walking a person should aim for.

However, if a person experiences worsening or severe pain, they should seek the advice of a primary care doctor or physical therapist. These healthcare professionals can advise on ways a person can manage pain to help them walk more.

Gentle stretching and physical activity, such as walking, can help a person manage sciatica.

Other treatments and tips a doctor may recommend include:

  • taking pain relief medication as needed
  • practicing good posture
  • using hot or cold packs to manage pain and muscle spasms

In some cases, a doctor may recommend surgery, particularly if a person experiences severe leg pain for 3 or more months despite trying other treatments.

A doctor can advise whether surgery might be a suitable treatment option and, if so, what type of surgery they recommend.

Learn more about different treatment options for sciatica pain.

It is best for a person who suspects they have sciatica to contact a doctor. The doctor can perform a physical examination, which may include checking the person’s strength and range of motion.

If a person’s sciatica symptoms persist for longer than 6 weeks, or if they present with certain “red flags,” a doctor may request further studies.

It is best to contact a doctor if a person experiences any of the following red flags:

  • problems with walking
  • symptoms not responding to pain relievers
  • sexual dysfunction
  • pain during the night
  • malaise, or feeling generally unwell
  • motor deficits
  • unexplained weight loss
  • neurological impairment
  • urinary problems
  • spinal malformations
  • fever

Sciatica causes pain that radiates from the lower back to the leg. Medical professionals generally advise people to resume physical activities, including walking, as soon as possible.

Walking may help reduce pain, inflammation, and disability in people with sciatica. A doctor may refer a person to a physical therapist for support and guidance on exercising with sciatica.