The sciatic nerve is one of the largest in the body, as large around as your little finger. It originates in the lower spine and runs through the buttock and down the leg to the big toe. Symptoms of sciatica can include:
1. A burning, almost itching, pain in the buttock that is worse with sitting.
2. Weakness in the leg, sometimes an inability to bear weight.
3. Pain in the lower back, described often as sharp, pointer like and hot.
4. Bending forward can often be painful.
Sciatica really hurts. It often presents as back or spinal pain causing the patient to consider surgery just to eliminate the extreme discomfort. It is often very difficult to find a comfortable position. The good news is that you can often treat sciatica conservatively (No need to bring out a scalpel!) within a few weeks, and most cases resolve by three months.
Sciatica can be caused by a compressed spinal nerve, sometimes as a result of disc herniation or stenosis, to name a couple possibilities. A skilled physiotherapist, chiropractor or health care specialist authorized to make diagnoses can determine if that is the cause, usually with a quick physical exam. The treatment focus in this case will be spinal stabilizing exercises. This conditioning of the muscles and connective tissue that keep the vertebrae separated and moving well together will help alleviate pressure on the nerve. This approach takes a little time, but pays dividends in many other areas as well.
The more common cause of sciatica is some pinching as the nerve travels through the buttock. There are very powerful muscles in this area that can misfire somewhat, causing irritation or compression on the nerve. Because we use these muscles so much, the source of the pain can be unrelenting. The treatment here is to stretch and balance the muscles of buttock and hip.
A major caution: please do not use foam rollers, massage balls or other aggressive stretch techniques when the nerve is really fired up. Direct pressure will just make it angrier. These massage techniques may have a place in long term maintenance, especially to keep buttock muscles fluid, but not during acute pain.
If you are looking for a conservative and field-tested method to rehabilitate sciatic pain, please review these videos. Patients often report some immediate softening of the discomfort after the first round.
Feel free to send questions or comments through my website at www.cherylgordonyt.com.