Sciatica is a catchy term often used when referring to low back pain that shoots into the hip or back of the leg… but is it really “sciatica”? Your first step should be to visit your doctor and have some tests done to determine what is causing the pain. A disc problem or other issue with the spine may be causing the nerve irritation and may need to be addressed by a specialist. If everything looks normal with your spine and you walk away without an answer, it may not be an issue with the nerve itself, but an issue with the muscles around the nerve.
Each of our muscles have a “job” and they work together to execute a movement. If one muscle isn’t doing its job, the result is usually pain. A muscle not doing its job is usually due to lack of strength and/or inhibition. When I meet with a client that reports sciatica-like symptoms and received no answers from the doctor, I almost always find weakness in the glutes and muscles of the hip. A tight muscle is compressing the nerve while another is not doing its job. We can often resolve this by correcting the imbalance, increasing range of motion, and performing myofascial release with a foam roller or working with a massage therapist.
Sacroiliac joint dysfunction is also often mistaken for sciatica. This is an issue related to the bones shifting in the back of the pelvis. Strengthening the abdominal muscles and muscles of the hips and low back can help to support the area, alleviate pain, and prevent subluxation. Stretching and myofascial release will also help in cases of SI joint dysfuction.
Often times we don’t think of exercise as a treatment for pain, but if you spend some time with a physical therapist or exercise specialist that is familiar with your issue, you may find that you are able to resolve the issue fairly easily. All exercise is not created equal, however, so it’s important to understand how your therapist or trainer is planning to resolve your pain. You will also find quicker and longer lasting recovery by combining exercise training (strength/flexibility) with massage therapy and/or chiropractic care.