What is Sciatica?
First of all, you don’t “have” sciatica; you have some other condition causing sciatica. The Sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. It is made up of several spinal nerves that converge and run from your low back to your knee before branching off and continuing to the foot.
Basically, the thing is YUUUGE!
It runs deep into the glutes and down the back of the thigh.
Sciatica is usually described as sharp or shooting pain radiating from the low back, butt, or down the path of the sciatic nerve. Other symptoms include numbness or tingling down the leg, electrical shocks, weakness, and other odd feelings in the legs. Symptoms are often aggravated or worsened with sitting. The symptoms can come and go or they can be constant. They can be felt in one leg or both legs. As you can see, people can report a broad range of symptoms with sciatica.
What Causes Sciatica?
Keep in mind that sciatica is a symptom, not a condition, so, what’s causing your sciatica may be different than what’s causing someone else’s. Research states that the majority of reported sciatica symptoms are secondary to disc herniations.
A common cause of sciatica is when the disc protrudes and touches the nerve. This is also known as a disc bulge. If someone has a disc bulge, this does not mean they will experience sciatica. In fact, many disc bulges do not cause pain or symptoms.
Other common causes include spinal stenosis (your canal shrinks), degenerative disc disease (the space between your bone shrinks) or piriformis syndrome.
What Can Help?
The worst thing you can do is lie in bed for 3 days if your symptoms are flared up. You need to MOVE, even if it’s a tiny bit. This video shows some ideas:
- 1Foam Rolling the Glutes/Piriformis- Sit on roller. Cross ankle over knee. Use small movements as opposed to long swipes. Really get in there. Move knee around for different angles.
- 2Foam Roller Thoracic Extension- If your low back is jacked up, you probably need more motion through the mid-back. Set roller horizontally. Lay back over it. Use small motions. Try not to arch at the low back.
- 3Cat/Camel- This is for flexion/extension. Focus on opening up each vertebrae and really sinking into the motion. If you’re in acute pain, use a small range of motion but KEEP MOVING.
- 4Hamstring Stretch + Nerve Flossing- Grasp the back of your leg. Bring thigh toward chest. Gently straighten. Hold 1-2 seconds. Repeat. If that nerve is irritated, take this slow and don’t hold long. “Flossing” is 1-2 seconds, back off, repeat. It should be a gentle pull. No painful zings.
- 5Low Back Extension- Lying on your stomach, keeping neck neutral, gently walk arms in to create extension in the low back. If your symptoms worsen but then stop when you return to neutral, you can continue with this exercise. It should lessen with each rep. If the sensation down the leg does not stop when you return to neutral, stop, this exercise is not for you yet.
Additional Stretch to Try
Since every case is different, smashing on the foam roller sometimes won’t help. Like when the nerve is LIT up. The stretch in this photo may be helpful. Give it a try and see how you feel.
Sitting in a position with your front leg bent under you, hinge at the hips so that your upper body is at 45ish degree lean. Move arms out in front of you to support body weight. Do not round forward (as in pigeon pose). Hinge at the hip so you feel a stretch deep in the booty. Hold 45 seconds. Repeat 3-4 times a day, every day.
Don't forget that in addition to these simple stretches it is important to strengthen your back in a safe and injury-free way. The Busy Bee Body resistance band kit, along with my 30 day strength training are the ideal ways to do this.