The Sciatic Nerve…..
Or the pain in your ass!
Ten bucks says that if you’re over the age of 20 you’ve felt this before. Where sitting in the car can cause shooting pain down your leg, or your deep in your butt you feel this burning pain that makes you want to cry until you arrive at your destination. Or you did a Deadlift with incorrect form (or went too heavy for your current core stability).
The sciatic nerve starts from L4-S1 of your low back. It can be pinched and irritated at the spine from the discs, but you also may have compression somewhere else down the line of the nerve which will generate the symptoms in different locations.
Sometimes the Piriformis itself can compress the Sciatic Nerve, thus causing some inflammation in that region as well (the pain in the butt).
Sometimes having your pelvis out of alignment can also cause the pinching of this nerve as well. Not to mention of you have fascia and musculature that is holding too much tension. It could be from tight Lats, Quadratus Laborum, Gluteus Muscles, Hamstrings, etc. Finding the root cause in what is driving that tightness is a must in terms of keeping the pain away. Movement patterns that are repetitive to the point where the posterior of the body becomes tighter than the anterior part of the body (or vice versa). You’ll see this with people who either have no arch in their back or too much arch as well.
In picture one you can see where the Sciatic comes through the back of the pelvis through a relatively narrow channel. In the second picture you can see how the Piriformis lays right on top of that nerve. Notice the direction of the muscle fibers there, and you can see that if the Piriformis becomes shorter it will push down on that Sciatic Nerve.
In picture #3 you can see the direction of the Gluteus Maximus fibers run as well as the Glute Minimus. If your butt is too tight I bet you also might have one foot that splays out (kind of like a duck) a bit more than the other foot. I’m sure that there are ways to release these tissues, but I’d rather you find an expert on dealing with this as well.
In picture #4 you can see how the pelvis should be if we were all perfect. Most of us aren’t though as life has a tendency to cause us to favor one side over the other, and you’ll see one side of the pelvis tilt forward more than the other side. Let’s get serious here though – I’ve been trying to keep my hips balanced my whole life, but I keep doing things to put me back out of position……Just sitting in your car and how you hold your leg can affect this (or sitting at your desk). The list is endless.
First a warning here: If you feel any numbness or loss of function in your leg, please get to the doctor immediately.
There are a couple of things you can do to help relieve the stress in the low back by doing quite a few different things. I normally will try one method for at least a week, and if I don’t find relief it’s time to find a different way to deal with the issue.
So how do you fix this on your own? I would first try some gentle Feldenkrais for Sciatic Pain by checking out the different practitioners on YouTube. This is a great resource for some easy movements that can help you to quickly reduce the pain short term until you figure out where your imbalance is located.
One of my favorite books of all time though is “Pain Free” by Pete Egoscue. Below is picture of the Seated Knee Squeeze and Static Back Knee Squeezes that should really help to create space and feel good. Just follow the directions, and let me know if it helps!