Carol came to see me after returning from her most recent vacation. While she looked lovely and tanned, she was also in a great deal of pain.
She and her husband had gone on a road trip and the long hours spent sitting in the car had wreaked havoc on her back.
When I asked her about the pain, she described it as being “a sharp pain that starts at the top of her butt and goes right down her leg”.
I knew what it was right away – and it’s quite literally a pain in the butt.
I have seen this so many times in my clinic. And although I hate to see my clients in pain, I love showing them that these symptoms are treatable in most cases.
So before we dive into how to treat Sciatica, let’s talk more about what it is – and what it’s not.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is not a disease or condition, but rather a symptom of the pain caused by irritation of the Sciatic Nerve.
The Sciatic Nerve is a long nerve that starts in the lower spine and runs through our buttocks, down the back of our leg and into the foot. When it gets irritated, it’s anything but pretty — except pretty angry!
Symptoms of Sciatica are described as:
- Sharp Pain typically starting around the low back, near the buttocks and down the back of the leg
- Some describe a numbness or a “pins and needles” sensation radiating into the foot
- Weakness in the affected leg or foot
Regardless of their particular symptoms, these clients are extremely uncomfortable and looking to me for relief. After many years of treating Sciatica (it’s more common than you think!), I have created a unique treatment protocol that not only relieves the pain, but it decreases the frequency of a recurrence.
THE FIRST STEP in this protocol is figuring out WHY you got into this mess in the first place.
→ What’s causing the irritation of the Sciatic Nerve in your body?
The most common causes of Sciatica
- A Herniated Disc – sometimes called a slipped disc
- Degenerative Disc Disease – this is the breakdown of the intervertebral disc in the spine
- Hypermobile (unstable) or Hypomobile (limited range of motion) Sacroiliac Joint (SI joint)
Everyone’s body is different and needs to be treated as such. The way I would treat a client with a herniated disc is going to be completely different than someone who has overly tight back muscles. Once I know the root cause of the client’s pain, I can treat them accordingly.
How massage & myofascial bodywork helps Sciatica
THE NEXT STEP is massage to relieve the tight muscles that are causing the Sciatic Nerve to become so irritated.
In addition to relieving the tight muscles, the massage promotes healing by increasing blood circulation to the inflamed area.
Your body will release endorphins that act as a natural pain reliever and you’ll feel more relaxed. It’s an all-around win!
And while massage can do wonderful things, it’s only part of the recovery system. Being able to bring a client relief is wonderful, however keeping them pain-free is even better.
That’s why the FINAL STEP is… homework. Yes, I give my clients homework!
If we want to avoid this “pain in the butt” problem from recurring, it’s imperative that we work on corrective exercises.
For example, a client who’s Sciatica stems from weak core muscles will be given exercises to strengthen their abdominals and low back.
Every client’s treatment plan is unique but there are a few preventative measures that I recommend to almost everyone.
KEEP YOUR BODY IN MOTION
A healthy spine is one that moves with regularity. Avoid sitting for long periods of time if you can and take mini walk breaks to keep your spine happy and healthy
TRAIN YOUR CORE IN 360 DEGREES
Your core is comprised of several muscles including your abdominals, low back, hips, and glutes. Most people focus on training only the abdominals which creates a muscular imbalance. Be sure to train the core from all angles to keep your body balanced and strong.
DON’T BE A SLOUCH!
Remind yourself to keep your shoulders back and down and to sit tall to avoid strain on your low back. Standing tall and learning the “power pose” can be very effective too.
REGULAR SELF-MASSAGE AND STRETCHING
Self-massage and stretching are invaluable tools to prevent sciatica in the long term. Self-massage or more specifically self-myofascial release can give you relief and recovery from chronic pain and injury you’ve been seeking.
You don’t need to live in pain!
Even with following these recommendations, you can still run into sciatica or sciatic nerve pain — and if you do, don’t wait to address it.
With the help of a trained professional, you can eliminate that “pain in the butt” and get on with your awesome full life!