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Can Hydrotherapy Help Sciatica?


Sciatica is the common term for the medical symptom known as lumbar radiculopathy.  It occurs when the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in the body which runs from the hips to the feet, is inflamed.  This can cause shooting pains, tingling, numbness, and weakness of the lower back, buttocks, backs of legs, feet, and toes.  These sensations can last from several weeks to much longer periods of time.  It’s thought that sciatica may be caused by back problems such as slipped discs when a bone in the back slides out of position (spondylolisthesis) or a narrowing of the spine that affects the nerves (spinal stenosis.) 

If you feel the effects of sciatica for more than a few weeks, it keeps getting worse or it prevents you from going about your daily routine, you should visit a doctor.  The doctor may suggest exercises, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, pain relieving devices, drugs, surgery or a combination of these.  In this article, we try to answer the question of how can hydrotherapy help sciatica?  We’ll go over the three main forms of hydrotherapy used to alleviate sciatica as well as some underwater exercises that can help relieve the pain.


While swimming won’t cure sciatica, it’s a great form of hydrotherapy that can relieve the pain while also getting you into shape.  The water provides buoyancy to the body which can take the pressure off joints, muscles and especially the sciatic nerve.  Swimming provides a low impact, full body workout which releases natural endorphins that alleviate pain and improve the mental condition.  Because some swimming strokes may actually exacerbate sciatic nerve pain, for maximum benefit it’s best to limit yourself to the sidestroke.


Aquacize classes were created to allow people to perform aerobic exercises in chest-deep water while reducing the amount of impact that’s normally associated with such movements on land.  As with swimming, the buoyancy of the water helps support the body, reduces the pressure on the joints, muscles, and nerves and allows for a greater range of motion without the fear of falling.

Soaking in A Hot Tub

For those who aren’t as mobile or need to work their way up to more vigorous forms of hydrotherapy such as swimming or aquacize, soaking in a hot tub can be a great way to relieve pressure on the body, joints, muscles, and nerves while benefiting from the massaging action of the water jets.  The warm water can help relax and loosen muscles while relieving pressure on the sciatic nerve.

Pool Walking

Walking is a good exercise for almost anyone.  However, walking in a swimming pool has the added benefits of reducing the impact on the joints, relieving pressure on the entire body and increasing resistance which results in a more demanding workout without the adverse effects found on land.  Walking through chest-deep water both forward and backward can provide variety to your pain relief workout

Knee Lifts

Knee lifts done in chest deep water are effective for stretching your back muscles while also building strength.  You can perform knee lifts by standing on one leg while holding onto the side of the pool and lifting your other leg up and as close to your chest as possible.  Alternate between legs and perform five to 10 repetitions each.

Superman Pose

Performing a Superman pose allows you to stretch out your back muscles and possibly relieve some of the pressure on your sciatic nerve.  You can perform this exercise by holding onto the edge of the pool with outstretched arms and kicking your legs up, so it looks like you’re flying like Superman.  Allow your body to fully stretch while focusing on loosening your most painful body parts.