Home Exercises for Common Injuries

June 5, 2024

From relieving sciatic and neck pain to recovering from an ankle sprain, our licensed physical therapist and certified athletic trainer, Nate Biondi, DPT, explains simple stretches for these common injuries. These easy-to-perform home exercises can help alleviate pain, strengthen muscles, and prevent re-injury. Read on to see how you can manage symptoms and improve mobility so you can feel better, faster.

home stretching

Sciatica (Low Back Pain)

Sciatica is a condition characterized by pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which extends from the lower back through the hips and buttocks and down each leg. You can experience sciatic pain on one side of the body or both, commonly worsened by bending or twisting.

In addition to pain, other symptoms include numbness, tingling, or burning sensations in the lower back and legs, often accompanied by muscle weakness.

How to reduce sciatica pain

To minimize the discomfort of sciatica and improve mobility, consider these practical strategies that focus on daily habits and posture adjustments.

  • Avoid positions that exacerbate symptoms, like bending or twisting at the waist without proper support.
  • Use ergonomic chairs that support spinal curves and adjust your workstation to encourage proper posture.
  • Employ proper mechanics when lifting objects: Use your legs, not your back, and keep your back straight while bending at your knees.
  • Avoid prolonged periods of sitting, which can put pressure on the sciatic nerve; instead, consider using a standing desk at work or taking frequent walking breaks.
  • Perform exercises that enhance the sciatic nerve and hamstring flexibility and core and lumbar stability.

At-home exercises for sciatica

Single knee to chest

Start by lying flat on your back. Bring one knee to your chest while keeping the other leg straight. Clasp your hands around the shin of the bent leg to maintain the position. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, switch legs, and perform three times per leg daily.

Hamstring stretch

While lying on your back, use a towel or strap under the foot of one leg and gradually raise that leg. Keep your knee straight to enhance the stretch along the back of your thigh, a crucial area for relieving sciatica pain. Maintain the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat three times per leg, once daily.

Sciatic nerve flossing

Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Extend one leg straight up in the air. Hold the back of your thigh with both hands to keep the leg elevated but not to the point of discomfort. Flex your foot to bring your toes toward you, then point your toes away from you.

While your foot is flexed (toes pointing toward you), slowly straighten your knee as much as you can without pain. Then, gently bend the knee again while pointing your toes away from you.

Perform the movement slowly, alternating between flexing and pointing your toes as you straighten and bend your knee. Do this 10 times for each leg.

Piriformis stretch

Lie on your back and cross one leg over the other so your ankle rests on the opposite knee. Using your hands, pull the knee of your crossed leg toward your opposite shoulder. Hold this position for 30 seconds, repeat three times on each side, and perform daily.

Double knee to chest

Lie on your back and draw both knees to your chest, holding the back of your knees with your hands. Hold for 15 seconds, and repeat five times.

McGill Big 3 (core stabilization)

The McGill Big 3 is a set of three exercises developed by Dr. Stuart McGill, a distinguished professor and spine biomechanics specialist. These exercises are designed to improve core stability, reduce lower back pain, and enhance posture without placing excessive strain on the spine. The three exercises are:

Bird dog

From a hands-and-knees position, extend one arm forward while extending the opposite leg back until both are parallel to the floor. Hold for 3 seconds and switch sides, performing two sets of 10 repetitions daily.


Lie on your back with one leg extended and the other bent. Place your hands under your lower back to maintain its natural arch. Lift your head, shoulders, and chest together while keeping your back neutral. Hold for five seconds, alternating the bent leg halfway through. Complete two sets of 10 repetitions daily.

Side bridge

Lie on your side with your forearm on the floor under your shoulder and feet stacked. Lift your hips to form a straight line from head to feet, holding for 5–10 seconds. Switch sides after completing three sets.

Lateral Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains typically result from the inward rolling of the ankle, which can stretch or tear the ligaments. They are among the most common types of athletic injuries. Symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty bearing weight.

At-home exercises for ankle sprains

Accelerate the healing process and reduce the risk of further injury with these at-home exercises and stretches for ankle sprains.

Calf raises

Stand holding onto a stable surface. Raise onto your toes and slowly lower back down, performing three sets of 10 repetitions daily.

Tibialis anterior raises

Stand with your back against a wall. Bring your feet about a foot away from the wall. Lift your toes while keeping your heels on the ground. Hold for 2–3 seconds and return to the start position, completing three sets of 10 repetitions daily.

Four-way ankle with resistance band

Sit on a surface where your feet can hang freely. Secure a resistance band or strap around your foot for tension and perform the following stretches:

  • Plantarflexion: Push your foot downward against the band, like pressing a pedal. Perform 10 repetitions.
  • Dorsiflexion: Pull your toes toward your shin using the band to increase tension. Complete 10 repetitions.
  • Inversion: Turn your foot inward against the band. Do 10 repetitions.
  • Eversion: Move your foot outward against the band’s pull. Execute 10 repetitions.

Perform two sets for each direction once daily.

Single leg balance

Position yourself near a wall for support and stand on one foot, ensuring your hips and spine remain neutral. Maintain this position for 30 seconds, performing three sets daily.

Calf stretch

Stand facing a wall, chair, or countertop, and use it for balance. Step one foot back, keeping the back leg straight and the front knee slightly bent. Press the heel of the back foot firmly into the ground to stretch the calf muscle. Lean your body forward toward the wall or chair to deepen the stretch in the calf. Perform three sets of 30 seconds each once daily.

Neck Pain

At-home exercises for neck pain

Neck pain can arise from inadequate exercise, emotional stress, poor posture, or direct injury. These at-home exercises and stretches focus on proper posture and cervical strength to alleviate neck pain and improve your range of motion.

Cervical extension

Use a small hand towel wrapped around your neck as support. Gently extend your neck backward as if looking up at the ceiling, then return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times with 10-second holds daily.

Upper trap stretch

Start with a proper sitting posture, where ears are over the shoulders with shoulders down and back. Stretching the left side first, place your left hand behind the back to keep your shoulders down. Then, bring your right ear down to the right shoulder to stretch the left trap – hold for 30 seconds.

Reverse the position to stretch your right trap. Repeat 3 times on each side, once per day.

Levator scapulae stretch

Place your hand on the back of your head and gently turn your head toward the armpit on the same side. Hold for 30 seconds, switch sides, and repeat three times, once per day.

Chin tucks

While lying down, tuck your chin downward as if answering “yes” to a question. The back of your head should stay on the table with the chin tucked into and out from the neck. Perform three sets of 10 with 5-second holds once per day.

Shoulder shrugs

Stand or sit with your spine straight. Let your arms hang naturally by your sides with elbows straight. Elevate your shoulders toward your ears in a shrugging motion, hold for a moment, and then relax them back down. Repeat this motion 10 times for three sets once daily.

Scapula Retracts

Stand or sit with good posture. Gently pull your shoulder blades back and downward as if trying to pinch them together. Hold this position for five seconds to strengthen the muscles between your shoulder blades. Perform three sets of 10 repetitions once daily.

While these exercises are designed to ease your discomfort and improve mobility, it’s crucial to listen to your body and proceed with caution. If you find your neck and back or ankle symptoms persist or worsen, we’re here to help. Request an appointment and see how our top-ranked specialists can help you return to the activities you love without pain.