Over the years of coaching, I’ve seen my fair share of clients complaining about their sciatic pain. It’s a horrible experience, and it can last up towards a couple of weeks.
Sciatic pain or sciatica is usually caused by a few things:
But, personally, the most common reason is that god awful piriformis being the made culprit to so many people’s pain. Piriformis syndrome is a pain that starts in the glutes and runs down one or both legs. Sciatica is usually caused by pressure or irritation of nerves in the lower back. One condition that causes pressure on those nerves is called Piriformis Syndrome.
The piriformis is a muscle that extends from the front of the sacrum, and the piriformis extends across the sciatic nerve to the top of the femur. The sciatic nerve itself is the largest nerve in our bodies, but one thing people tend to forget to mention is its diameter. A typical sciatic nerve in an adult can be as large as 20mm, which is about as large as a quarter.
If you look where the piriformis is in our bodies, it’s clear to see why if this muscle becomes tight it will create havoc on that sciatic nerve.
Can you imagine having a nerve that thick and if one little muscle like the piriformis decides to get “tight” there’s no question why we would have pain. The question is, “Why is everyone getting sciatic pain because of this one muscle?” I firmly believe it’s the amount of time we spend sitting every day. Think about it. I’ve written and said this a million times before. We wake up, get into our cars to sit for our commute, get to work to sit for 8–10 hours at our desk, we commute back home sitting, eat dinner sitting, then finish off the day sitting on the couch watching Netflix. Sitting is slowly destroying our bodies.
So What Can You do to Prevent That Awful Sciatic Pain?
Many people make the mistake of “stretching” to help with their sciatica, but that’s a rookie mistake. Nerves do not like to be stretched. Stretching nerves tend to piss them off and makes matter worse, but many general population people fall victim to, “If I stretch I’ll feel better.”
That’s not the case for this situation.
Movement is vital when it comes to defeating sciatic pain. Having mobile happy and healthy joints will relieve pain. I always advocate proper movement and training for every single person I work with. Dealing with sciatic pain isn’t rocket science. Step one is to figure out what exercises don’t aggravate the nerve, and step two, is to continue practicing those exercises to build function and strength.
As you go along, you can start challenging the system with progressions of each exercise and try incorporating some others to test if any symptoms arise.
These five exercises below are my go to’s for clients and patients who are dealing with sciatic pain and are gentle on the body. Remember if anything hurts or doesn’t feel right you stop. There’s no point to pushing through pain in hopes to make it feel better.
I always advocate to my clients that the moment something doesn’t feel right in the body, right away book in with your physio or chiropractor just to double check. DON’T PUSH THROUGH PAIN.
Your spine can interdependently move one vertebrae at a time by about 10–15mm. You should be able to perform this movement when asked. When I first started using this assessment movement, I was blown away by the number of people who have “stuck” or non-functioning spines. To be able to flex and extend your spine when asked during specific tasks are crucial to spine integrity and longevity.
Things to look out for:
- No movement; this can happen, a client might not understand and won’t be able to send the signal from the brain to the muscles surrounding the spine to extend or flex on command
- Jumping! You might see the tailbone, L5, L4, extend then jumps to the thoracic spine extending, then back to the lumbar spine, and back again.
- The lumbar spine is completely jammed, and only thoracic spine extends and flexes
- The thoracic spine is completely jammed and only the lumbar spine extends and flexes
- Mid-thoracic spine is jammed
Begin by lying on your side with a foam roller underneath your knee and ankle. Make sure your shoulders are stacked on top of each other along with the hips. Initiate the movement by sliding the top arm across the body and “open up” aiming the back of the wrist of the opening arm to the ground. Make sure to keep the top leg’s knee on the foam roller. Then, return to the starting position and repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions.
Begin on your hands and knees and slowly position your legs as wide as you can to mimic frog legs. With your arms place them in front of you and put your elbows on the ground, so they line up with your shoulders. With your legs spread, and your feet pointing outwards, slowly rock back and forth to feel a stretch in the musculature of your groin. Be sure to keep a neutral spine and prevent any tucking of the pelvis.
Begin in a supine position, and grabbing a light tension band loop it across the arch of your foot, then bring both legs up vertically. While holding the light tension band, try to keep the leg strapped in as straight as possible while the other drops down to the floor and back up slowly. If you can’t keep the leg strapped in straight, have a slight bend in the knee. As long as you feel a light stretch throughout the exercise, you’ll receive the benefit of the exercise.
Starting in the quadruped position, begin the movement by driving one knee into hip flexion, then lead the knee to create a large circle around your body. Think of driving the knee forward, out to the side, around, then finishing back to the starting position. From here, reverse the movement and then continue for the prescribed amount of repetitions.
By using these simple yet effective exercises daily maybe even daily in the morning or at night as part as your routine can dramatically improve your quality of life. Remember, don’t push through pain, if something doesn’t feel right, stop, move on, and always check in with your physio or chiro to make sure what you’re doing for your pain is right for you.