A short time back I received a telephone call from a woman by the name of, Katrina. As she spoke it was quite clear that she was suffering and was in a great deal of pain. She had been diagnosed by her medical doctor with a condition called, sciatica. As she described her situation it became clear that she needed to get relief as soon as possible.
Sciatic pain is a bodily condition that can affect any age group and can follow some or all of the pathway of the Sciatic nerve which originates in the lower back and travels through the glutes and hip before traveling down the leg all the way to the foot. It can occur as a burning and searing pain that can be very disruptive to the life of the person experiencing it. It’s estimated that some 3 million people experience sciatica yearly in the US alone.
While Sciatica can be triggered by bony problems (e.g., bone spurs, herniated discs, etc.), sciatic pain is most typically caused by a spasm or contraction of a muscle called the piriformis, which lies deep to the gluteus maximus and spans between the sacrum and the femur. The Sciatic nerve travels immediately beneath the piriformis though in some people it passes right through this hip rotator muscle.
Postural issues in combination with acute sports or other injuries to that area can often trigger this problem. This condition, which can be worse climbing stairs, can subside for a period of time, and then, without any warning, flare up.
One typical approach of the medical model would attempt to treat this or a similar type of injury with steroid injections, and painkillers (both prescription and over the counter drugs). Unfortunately, this approach is temporary at best with potential damage to the body due to various side effects.
The best approach to address this condition is to eliminate the cause. If this condition is being triggered by pressure from the piriformis muscle on the sciatic nerve, it is important to release pressure to the sciatic nerve. In other words, it is critical to get the irritant off the muscle and relax that myofascial unit.
Acupuncture, chiropractic, and Structural Integration (a.k.a. Rolfing) deep tissue massage are among the approaches that can be helpful when used individually or in combination. The sixth session of the Structural Integration 10 series addresses the causative areas of most sciatica in a comprehensive manner.
As part of a strategy to regain total health, Katrina needed a plan to do something to prevent this from happening again. Typically, stretching exercises are a good way to maintain the health of these muscles after you have been able to heal the afflicted areas.
If you’ve never suffered from sciatica, you are fortunate! Of course, the best form of cure is prevention. A good way to prevent yourself from experiencing sciatica would be to use stretching exercises, yoga exercises, and other forms of mild exercise to lengthen and balance all the deep gluteal muscles which function as rotators of the hip and stabilizers of the sacrum.
The muscles and fascia of the lower lumbar area will also need attention. These strategies will likely have lasting effect only when combined with a hands-on manual therapy that balances and lengthens the body’s deep core myofascia with the large surface muscles and fascia while resolving old survival postures.
In summary, the best way to deal with sciatic pain is to use a regular stretching program to prevent it from happening, but if it does, my recommendation is to seek out a natural approach that eliminates the cause. You and your body will be grateful.