How to get rid of sciatic pain part two
We got to know the anatomy involved in and around the sciatic nerve in the last post specifically regarding the hip flexor muscle and the piriformis muscle.
Remember this photo?
This cute little prifiormis is an external rotator of the hip. it looks pretty big here, so let’s give you some perspective on the actual size of that muscle. Here is the piriformis muscle as seen on Mr. Muscle Guy (for those of you who love spinning anatomy apps I use iMuscle2):
Guess what muscle is also an external rotator, but has lots more muscle fibers available to do the EXACT SAME MOTION?
I’ll give you three guesses on what might be the answer. Here is a hint: It is one of my most favorite muscles, and I am sure you are really quite sick of me talking about it. I know several of my clients are…but it is such a great muscle! So powerful, so versatile, so handy to have on your brain’s radar of available muscles….
And when strong you look waaaay better in jeans!
What muscle could I be referencing? Drumroll please….
OH ya, the glutes are also an external rotator of the hip. However, they have a distinct advantage as they are about ten times bigger than the sweet little piriformis. There is simply alot more real estate to work with.
More than that, if your glute is not working, guess who tries to take over the workload?
That poor little piriformis. Poor little guy! Such a hard worker, and it just needs help from the big monster glute. Remember how I stated that lots of my clients claim that piriformis stretches don’t seem to have much staying power? Well, if you don’t RELEASE the piriformis and then ENGAGE the glute to keep the piriformis relaxed, you aren’t helping the piriformis as much as you could.
Release and engage.
Every body needs a nice blend of the two!
How do we release the piriformis?
And how do we engage the glute to resume it’s role as the powerful primary external rotator of the hip? Try this:
Why I am a fan of walking sideways
You know I am a big fan of walking sideways. The reason? Look carefully at the photo of the glute above. The way the lines are drawn in the muscle is the actual direction of the glute fibers. Notice they run nearly parallel to the ground. That means that you need to move in the direction the fibers run to give them an easy opportunity to contract. I have all of my clients try it, but sometimes getting the glute to engage is a bit elusive.
Then one day I was on FaceTime with my client Debby in Boston. She was also struggling to find her glute, and I told her to stand against the wall and try walking sideways with the back of her hip in contact with the wall at all times. She only a a short chunk of wall to work with- from the light switch to behind the door (which we had to close for more room).
However, the wall as a frame of reference turned the corner for her ability to get her glutes to work!
Here is an action photo of her working the magic of walking sideways on the wall!
My take on the sciatic nerve- there is no harm in eliminating the possibility that either the hip flexor or the piriformis is up to no good, and how to go about tackling the imbalances or tightness lurking in both.
Caveat #1: When I get that nerve fired up enough to make it go zipping down the back of my leg, it takes me a good 3-4 days of solid chipping away at the muscle tightness/imbalances to make an impact on the symptom.
Caveat #2: Understand that a totally numb leg is the most impinged the nerve can be, and if you are improving the symptom you might get the nerve to now back off to shooting pain, then tingling, then tooth ache, then gone. The problem with this is you think the shooting pain must be making the situation worse, and it hurts like h-e-double-hockey-sticks. Again, HANG IN THERE! You are making progress! I am sorry it hurts. I know exactly how you feel.
Hang in there! You’ve got nothing to lose other than nerve pain!
Let me know in the comments below how you handle your sciatic nerve symptoms, and what has worked for you.