Is it Really Sciatica?
It’s easy to assume that the awful tingling pain running from your low back down the back of your leg is sciatica, but it could actually be something much easier to deal with!
Chances are you are already familiar with the concept, if not the actual experience, of sciatica. Sciatica is an irritation of the sciatic nerve due to some dysfunction in the lumbar spine such as herniated or degenerating discs, fractures, or arthritis. It can radiate burning/tingling/sharp pain from your low back into your hip and down your leg, sometimes even extending into your foot or toes. Pretty much any basic activity involving your lower body, including sitting, can become a literal pain in the butt! If you have true sciatica, your best bet is to see a doctor. However, a couple other conditions cause sciatica symptoms that are much easier to manage at home.
The piriformis is the most well known of the lateral hip rotator muscles. (I had a teacher who joked that the other six were simply back up dancers!) These muscles are located in the back of the hip and in charge of turning the leg out to the side so both your knee and toes are pointed away from the middle of your body.
When your piriformis becomes overly tight, it can impinge and agitate the sciatic nerve which runs directly under the piriformis producing the same symptoms as sciatica. Actions that over tax the piriformis are long periods of sitting, excessive running, excess weight bearing (including in pregnancy), and under-active glute muscles. Over stretching can also be an issue.
You can test for piriformis syndrome at home with a simple move.
Stand or sit in a position that causes you the most discomfort
Place your feet about shoulder width apart
Slowly turn your leg on the affected side outward. If you are sitting, this will mean also pulling your knee away from the other as well as turning your toes out
If the pain worsens, stop! If it lessens, you most likely have some degree of piriformis syndrome
Should you test positive, light stretching and self massage of the piriformis muscle can do wonders to help ease your pain.
Bonus: In your stretches and massage, also address your quadratus femoris muscle! This is another lateral rotator located closer to the top of the hamstrings in your hip. The QF and the piriformis work very closely together. When your piriformis is working too hard, often it is also picking up slack for the QF as well as dealing with its other stressors. Your self care will be made significantly more effective by focusing on both of these muscles!
Share this article if you found it helpful! And if you would prefer a professional help you release your sciatica symptoms, give me a call at (856) 857-7535.
**This article is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult with a health professional if you have a medical concern or are experiencing neurological symptoms.
LMBT & Founder of Philosopher's Stone Therapeutic Massage
Serving Haddonfield, NJ and Surrounding Areas
Rhiannon loves helping you solve your pain puzzles! A chronic pain specialist with a sub-specialty in pelvic dysfunction, she understands the huge impact pain can have on your life and is dedicated to helping you reach your health goals so you can enjoy your life fully and whole. Though her style can sometimes be described as "therapeutic fluff," she is not the therapist to see for a "just to treat myself" massage.
Augmenting her initial massage training with multiple courses and certifications including SMRT, ATMAT, and IHPS she has the skills to create effective and lasting change for you. But don't go on blind faith - check out her amazing reviews!