Sciatica is a term used to describe a specific type of buttock and leg pain, that may be accompanied by other symptoms such as numbness and tingling, that is a result of compression on lumbar spine nerve roots (L4-S1) or direct compression/irritation of the sciatic nerve itself. The sciatic nerve runs from the lumbosacral plexus in the lower back, down the back of the leg, with branches running all of the way down to the foot and toes. As such, true sciatica will cause symptoms in the buttock and down the back of the leg, potentially all of the way to the foot and toes. Sciatica has become a catch-all phrase for some medical professionals to describe any leg pain related to the lower back, such as pain in the front of the thigh or shin, but this is inaccurate and may lead to improper treatment.
The most important key to treating sciatica is to properly identify where the symptoms are coming from. As stated before, many different conditions can result in sciatica. Disc bulges, stenosis (narrowing of canals where nerve roots pass through in the lumbar spine), compression by the piriformis muscle, and other conditions are all potential contributors. You must identify and treat those issues to fully resolve your leg symptoms.
A good treatment technique that you can use to start decreasing your pain is a sciatic nerve glide. This technique is aimed at gently mobilizing the sciatic nerve and the nerve roots that form it to alleviate the compression and decrease your pain. To perform this nerve glide, start by lying on your back with your hip flexed to 90 degrees and your hands holding your thigh in place. Start with your knee flexed and your toes pointing up to the ceiling (a), and slowly straighten your knee while keeping your toes pointed at the ceiling (b). Straighten your leg only as far as you can without causing any increase in your leg pain. Perform 20 slow reps, two to three times a day, to start addressing your sciatica.
If you are experiencing true sciatica, or any other leg pain, numbness, or tingling, email me at DrRyan@proletept.com to set up an evaluation to determine the source of your symptoms and get you training and doing your daily activities pain-free once again.