Sciatica Is Very Common But Very Treatable

Have you ever been diagnosed with sciatica? Sciatica is a very common diagnosis. In fact, it is thought that about 40% of people will experience sciatica at some point during their life. However, sciatica is really more of a symptom than a diagnosis. Sciatica is a fancy term for irritation of your sciatic nerve, which is the big nerve that exits your low back and goes down the back of your legs.


Why Do I Have Sciatica?

The sciatic nerve can get irritated in a few different locations. Irritation to your sciatic nerve can occur in your low back, by your SI joint (where your pelvis meets your low back), or in your deep hip muscles, primarily your piriformis. This is one area we evaluate during physical therapy. In order to solve your sciatica, we have to determine where your sciatic nerve is getting irritated and put the fire out.


How Do I Know If I Have Sciatica?

When the sciatic nerve is irritated, you may feel numbness, tingling, and/or burning following the path of the sciatic nerve down the back of your leg. Sometimes these symptoms go all the way down to your foot.

When dealing with nerve symptoms, your leg acts like a temperature gauge. The more irritated your sciatic nerve is, the further down your leg these symptoms will go. As your sciatic nerve calms down, you will not feel your symptoms as far down your leg.


Muscle Pain Can Mimic Sciatica

If your pain is deep and achy, this may actually be muscle pain. Several of our deep hip muscles can refer pain down the back or the side of the leg, even all the way to the foot. In fact, referred pain from the gluteus minimus often gets misdiagnosed as sciatica. The good news is many of the treatments and exercises that are beneficial for sciatic nerve irritation are also ones we use to treat muscle pain.


Calming Your Sciatic Nerve

Sciatic nerve glides are one of the best ways to solve your sciatica. Nerve glides, or nerve flossing, move the nerve back and forth (like floss between your teeth) in order to increase blood flow to the area, which helps to calm your sciatic nerve and decrease nerve tension. Below is a sciatic nerve glide that can be performed daily.


Sciatic Nerve Glide

Calming Your Muscles

Decreasing tightness and knots in your low back muscles and deep hip muscles can help address where your sciatic nerve is getting irritated. Stretching these muscles can decrease tension on or near your sciatic nerve. Your piriformis is one of the most important muscles to stretch, as tightness in this muscle is strongly associated with sciatic nerve irritation. Your sciatic nerve either sits on top of, below, or goes through your piriformis muscle. Below is a piriformis stretch, as well as a stretch for your low back muscles.


Piriformis Stretch

Child’s Pose

Get Some Hands-On Treatment

Another very effective way to decrease muscle tension around your sciatic nerve is through manual work in physical therapy. Dry needling, cupping, and massage can quickly loosen the muscles in your low back and hip and decrease sciatic nerve irritation. Dry needling can be especially effective, as it is able to reach those deep hip muscles.

Dry Needling for Sciatica


Solve Your Sciatica and Keep It Away

Nerve glides, stretching your tight muscles, and hands-on treatment can solve your sciatica. Building strength in your core and hips can help stabilize your low back, hips, and SI joints in order to prevent your sciatic nerve from getting irritated again. It is important to continue to build this strength after your sciatica is gone to keep those symptoms away. You can then do your daily activities, exercise, and participate in sports without concern that your sciatica will return.

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