What is Sciatica pain?
There is a common misconception that any pain in the leg is sciatica pain. While it is true that sciatica pain is a pain in the leg, not all leg pain is sciatica. Sciatica is a pain in the leg that stems from a compression of the sciatic nerve. The pain generally starts in the upper to mid buttock muscles, running down the back/side of the upper leg and then crossing over to the front of the lower leg. Sometimes the pain stops at the ankle, while in others it may go as far as the toes.
What causes Sciatica pain?
Many things can cause the sciatic nerve to flare up. If you suspect that you have sciatic pain it is always a good idea to see your doctor for an x-ray or MRI, to rule out things such as a lower spine stenosis, a bulging disk, or even a tumor or cyst that may be compressing the sciatic nerve.
The most common cause of sciatic pain though is a condition that is also referred to as “Piriformis Syndrome”. The Piriformis is a muscle that is located in the buttock underneath the Gluteus Maximus.
You can see, in figure 2, how the sciatic nerve runs under the Piriformis muscle. If the Piriformis spasms or becomes inflamed, it will press on the sciatic nerve causing sciatic pain.
For men, probably the number one cause of sciatic pain is sitting on a wallet. The solution– get your wallet out of your back pocket! Put it in your front pocket! Or buy a purse or backpack to put it in…put it anywhere but your back pocket.
Women, on the other hand, don’t have the wallet problem. But many of you tend to either sit on your leg, or wrap your feet under the chair behind you.
In addition, simply sitting for too long can also contribute to sciatic pain. If you work at a desk all day, be sure to get up and move and stretch throughout the day. It might help to set a timer to remind yourself to do this periodically.
So how can I get rid of the pain?
Barring any medical conditions, massage therapy is one of the best ways to alleviate the pain. A skilled therapist will know how to release the piriformis which will take the pressure off of the sciatic nerve. If you are in the Albuquerque, New Mexico area you can click here to make an appointment with me. Or click here to get a referral for your area from massagetherapy.com.
At home you can apply self massage with a Lacrosse ball to the affected area. As I build this site out I will be producing how-to videos that will show you the best way to do this. So keep checking back for more information.