The Simple Truth about Sciatica – it’s Causes & Our Treatments

Nov 30, 2016

“Having tried numerous approaches to manage the chronic sciatic pain, I can honestly say that the treatment with SB Sports Massage has been the one intervention that always yields significant relief” Rach, Health Worker

One of the most common reasons for clients visiting our clinics is with the uncomfortable symptoms associated with Sciatica Nerve DiscomfortSciatica. Classic sciatic pain normally affects one leg and is a discomfort that starts in the lower back, transfers through the buttocks (Gluteals), travels down the back of the upper leg, through the knee and into the foot. Sciatic-type symptoms can feel like a numbness, tingling or burning sensation that radiates around the leg and foot, normally on one side only. This sensation is generally caused by an impingement of the sciatic nerve as it travels through the muscles of your buttock. Typically, the pain can feel worse in the leg and the buttocks rather than the lower back.

The Sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body and is formed from the spinal nerves L4 to S3 in the lumbar and sacral regions of the spine. It supplies feeling and motor control in the legs and feet. There are two sciatic nerves, one on each side that travel through the Gluteal muscles and the pelvis where it divides into the Peroneal and Tibial nerves.
Sciatica is not a condition in itself but is a term generally used to describe symptoms rather than an actual physical complaint. The most common form of sciatic pain that we witness is caused by a condition called Piriformis Syndrome. This is very treatable and is caused when the sciatic nerve is irritated by a tightness in the Piriformis muscle. The piriformis muscle is a small yet powerful muscle located deep behind the Gluteal muscles and is responsible for rotation of the hip. The Sciatic nerve runs beneath this muscle and can become compressed when the Piriformis muscle becomes tight.

We have already learnt that when the Piriformis muscles goes into spasm it can compress on the Sciatic nerve, causing pain in the buttocks and down one leg. The most common causes of a tight Piriformis muscle that we treat at our clinics are

  • Repeated activities. Without the necessary stretching, the same movement can overwork the Piriformis muscle, triggering a tightness and spasm, causing an impingement of the nerve. Most Sciatic pain often relates to a muscular injury. This pain can occur suddenly and usually recovers fairly quickly having responded rapidly to treatment.
  • Sitting for long periods. When the Gluteal muscles are inactive, commonly due to sitting for long periods, Tight hip flexorsthey become weakened over time. When these weakened muscles start to exercise, they are often unprepared for the activity, resulting in them overworking, tightening up and producing a muscular spasm. Whilst sitting for long periods of time, the hip flexors shorten, pulling the pelvis forward and out of alignment. The Glute muscles, in particular the Piriformis muscle fights to realign the pelvis and overworks, causing tightness, resulting in Piriformis Syndrome.

Strengthening and balancing opposing muscles groups will address any imbalances between the muscles at the front and the back of the body and stabilise the pelvis. Good flexibility of the hip flexors and quadriceps muscles on the anterior side and regular stretching of the glutes and hamstrings on the posterior side will make sure that both flexors and extensors will be working in unison and therefore working as efficiently as possible.

hip-flexor-stretchSciatic symptoms will typically resolve with the correct mix of rest, light exercise, gentle stretching, an ice and heat combination and hands-on treatment. Your GP may prescribe painkillers and/or anti-inflammatories but our clients tell us they gain a better result with Massage Therapy. Our Therapist’s goal is to restore function as quickly as possible and give each client the correct tools to prevent the injury from reoccurring. We will look at your exercise techniques and work with you to strengthen and stretch your lower back, core and glutes. We can assess the way that you stand, walk and run and measure your flexibility to ensure your movements are unrestricted. Through muscle activation tests we can assess muscle strengths and weaknesses, address any imbalances and assist you in maintaining good, strong posture.

Strong Gluteal muscles, efficiently working hip flexors and extensors and a flexible lower back will together all help to promote a healthy posture that will maintain good alignment and provide structural support, reducing your risk of sciatic-type symptoms.

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