Sciatica is a real pain in the ass. The Mayo Clinic agrees but they state it a little more eloquently, “sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg. Typically, sciatica affects only one side of your body”.
The main issue is that something is pushing on or pinching that nerve tissue. This may be a disk herniation, bone spur, or spinal stenosis where bones of the spine are pushing against the nerve. You may also have all of those structural issues and not suffer from sciatica, yet.
There could be another cause of this pain you’re experiencing, piriformis syndrome. It is pretty much the same issue, something pushing on the sciatic nerve, but in this case,
it's an inflamed muscle. Your sciatic nerve makes a pass through a tight tunnel under your butt cheek. It passes between your pelvis and the muscles that control the rotation of your hip. If these muscles are tight or inflamed, they push on the sciatic nerve. Piriformis Syndrome causes similar symptoms to the boney issues mentioned above but is much easier to treat with mobility and strength exercises.
If this is the case, you can reduce your symptoms and start to feel better right away. With consistent work, you can become asymptomatic and may feel better than you have in years.
All you need is a foam roller and a hard chair or bench.
If you feel any sharp or referring pain while on the foam roller, stop. Go see your physician and get this checked out.
Foam Roll Piriformis
Sit on your foam roller on the butt cheek you want to roll positioning your body so the roller is where your back pocket is. Your hands will be back on the floor and the roller isn’t quite perpendicular to your body. Roll across this area of your butt, you’re rolling your glute obviously but also the muscles underneath where the sciatic nerve pathway is. Roll across this area for up to 2 minutes taking time to stop on any trigger points and spending a little time on those spots.
This shouldn’t hurt, it’s not puppy kisses, but it shouldn’t cause real pain. You will feel discomfort but if the pressure is too much, push more weight into your hands and non-rolling foot. You can also try a softer roller.
If this is not quite enough pressure for you or not quite getting that spot, time to move on to level 2. Start in the same position as Level 1 but cross the rolling leg’s ankle over the opposite knee to make a triangle or 4 shape with your legs. We are going to call this figure 4 from this point on. You have now stretched the piriformis and it is more available to roll.
Foam Roll Glute Medius
You probably know where your gluteus maximus is located but you have other gluteal muscles (medius and minimus). The glute medius is located between the two boney bumps on your hip. The top bump is the outside of your pelvis and the lower bump is part of your femur called the greater trochanter. We are looking for the soft bits between the boney bits. Lie on your side with the roller perpendicular to your body. Position your body so you’re on the roller in the soft bits between the bones. Relax your body over the roller. Keep the muscles on the roller nice and relaxed. Staying in that little pocket between the bones, roll front to back so you go from the front pocket to the back pocket. Pay attention to any tender spots as above.
Roll for up to 2 minutes.
Seated Figure 4 Stretch
Now that you have relaxed the tight muscles, it’s time to stretch them. We will start with the piriformis. Sit on a bench and cross your stretching ankle over the opposite knee into your figure 4. Your bench should be high enough so you can sit with your hips level and your spine extended. You should feel a stretch across the back pocket area. If you have no knee issues on this leg you can increase this stretch by pushing down on your knee with light pressure. Keep your spine extended while doing this.
Hold for 60s and repeat
Crossed Leg Forward Fold
Finishing off with a hamstring stretch that also stretches your low back and hips will set you up to start moving better today. Stand tall with your weight on the leg you want to stretch. Cross the opposite leg over in front, keeping your weight on the stretching leg. Forward fold and relax. Feel free to shift your weight around. Try tucking your chin to your chest and see what that does to your mid-back. Reach the arm of the stretching leg toward your foot, grab the wrist with your opposite hand, and pull gently to increase the stretch on the outside of your low back and hip.
Hold for 60s and repeat
Give this routine a try and see how much better you feel.
Once you know your body is responding well to this routine, add a second session each day. Ideally, once in the morning and again after dinner.
You may feel a little sore after this session the first few times but if you do not feel relief or you felt pain, go see your physician and get this checked out.
I hope you find this helpful.
If you'd like further assistance on setting up your very own 28-day reboot, follow this link and get on my calendar. I'll get on a call with you and help you set up your own custom reboot.
Whether you're brand new to working out, looking to re-engage your love of fitness, or want to run your current workout program by Your Fitness Coach, I'm here to help.