How to get rid of sciatic pain
Ever have a burning, tingling, tooth-achey, or shooting pain in your hip, back or back of the leg and wonder just what the heck is going on? Did you sleep wrong or eat something spicy?
Or maybe you’ve just described the classic symptoms of sciatica.
What does that mean, and is it forever? Sure feels like it sometimes…
Let’s learn about it quickly and then move onto how to fix it!
Take a look at the nerve (in red here, perhaps to signify hotness!) as it originates in the low back and travels down the back of the leg.
photo credit : https://runnersconnect.net/sciatica/
There are a few studies that point out that the nerve pain could be coming from a bone issue, or an actual damaged nerve, or a few other less statistically likely options. See your doctor to find out exactly where yours is coming from, but while you wait for the appointment, let’s take a moment and investigate what might be happening.
There are two major areas that cause the majority of the impingements- right at the spine itself, and then the famous piriformis muscle in the back of the hip.
Let’s look at the spine itself where the nerve comes out:
Notice the little white bulge where the picture is labeled “herniated disc”. If you think of your discs as jelly donuts, it is as if the jelly has squished out in a little pocket. Unfortunately the root or base of the nerve is right there, and gets mad when the disc bonks into it. This is one way the nerve can get irritated, and create that burning, tingling, throbbing, shooting pain, or make it go completely numb.
No fun no matter what!
What else might be problematic?
Here we see the famous piriformis muscle. The nerve is in yellow, and travels behind or through the muscle itself. The thought is that this muscle clamps down on the nerve and creates nerve impingement symptoms in the rest of the leg. There are a litany of piriformis stretches out there, but most complain that the muscle tightens back down quickly.
What then to do?
Remember that there is no diagnostic test to administer to you that will pinpoint muscle tightness or imbalance. So, in the absence of any concrete results along those lines, I invite you to play around with the potential muscular culprits, so long as it doesn’t increase any symptoms.
I have blogged about sciatic issues before with an exercise targeting the hip flexor. https://justmuscles.net/fitness/how-to-fix-hip-flexor-tightness/.
The hip flexor holds onto the body of the vertebrae, where it is marked “vertebrae” on the second photo, and also on the transverse processes, which are little wings that stick out on the sides of the vertebrae making it a 3-point star shape.
In the second photo they are cut for illustration purposes. This muscle, especially if it is wicked tight on one side, could be the reason the disc wants to herniate or bulge. Try the very easy and relaxing supine groin exercise described in the blog.
I once worked with a 20 year old SDSU football player whose hip flexor got so tight on one side that it SNAPPED OFF two levels of transverse processes.
Nothing you can do about that. My first question to him was, “Well, what is the other hip flexor doing?” He looked puzzled. “I always suspect the opposite side is the bigger problem,” I said, which elicited more puzzled looks.
If your knees can tolerate kneeling, I also recommend this Kneeling Wall position because it helps level out the hips and create equal workload for both hips on both sides, which was something Mr. SDSU needed badly.
Kneel, with something cushy underneath your knees if they need it, where your knees and nose touch the wall. Here is the absolutely critical piece: MAKE SURE THE WEIGHT IS EQUAL IN BOTH KNEES. If it isn’t then you are continuing to favor one side over the other.
If necessary, force the weight onto the knee that isn’t doing as much work. This creates a platform where the hips are required to do the same amount of work, and you will feel your quads burn up to your hips. It might of take 4-5 mins, or even up to 12. Breathe. Hang in there! We want those hips level!
We will get to the piriformis next time, and join us for Part Two of How to Get Rid of Sciatic Pain.
Let me know in the comments below how this helped you, or someone you love!