Sciatica

The Sciatica Misconception

A discussion on what Sciatica truly is versus Piriformis Syndrome, a condition that most people typically have when experiencing sciatic nerve pain.

Hi, everyone. It's Constance with BodyTx Massage, Acupuncture, and Naturopathy. It's been a long time since we've been on here, and so I thought I'd jump on here and just talk about a little bit of a topic that comes up quite often. It's sort of one of those notorious conditions that a lot of people are dealing with. And it is the topic of sciatic pain.

And so I thought I'd just talk a little bit about the difference between two certain conditions that seem to kind of get bunched into the topic of sciatic pain. So I thought I'd clarify that a little bit. Just to kind of explain that there are two sort of different ways of approaching these conditions.

When it comes to sciatic pain, what is sciatic? It's actually a nerve that runs down from the bottom of the spine down into the gluts, down past in the back of the hamstrings, down the calf, and into the foot. And it's really one of the major, major nerves that innervate our legs, our hips, our gluts, and the pelvis, as well. And it's actually quite large. It's sometimes as large as the size of your pinky, a little bit smaller, too. It just depends. 

Everyone's different.

What's interesting is that it runs from the spine in through the glut muscles, and oftentimes it can get trapped in some specific muscles, one called the piriformis. And that muscle can either be on top of the sciatic nerve. The nerve can go between, like within that muscle, or underneath. And any time that that muscle is tense or restricted, it 

can cause pressure on the sciatic nerve.

And then usually you feel the pain or some nerve tingling feeling going down the leg into the back of the hamstrings, a little bit into the calves, and definitely at the bottom of the feet. And that's we actually call piriformis syndrome. It's actually not called sciatic nerve or sciatica. It's because the piriformis is causing compression on the sciatic nerve.

Now when it comes to actually sciatica, that is more of a serious medical condition in terms of the spine. So you want to make sure that you get checked out for disc bulging between the spine, the vertebrae, which is causing some pressure on the sciatic nerve that's coming from the spinal cord. So that's an entirely different situation. But oftentime, what most people don't know is that that's typically only about 10% of the people who complain about sciatic nerve pain down the leg.


Just wanted to give a little bit of explanation on that. Usually with the piriformis syndrome, so that's where the muscle is compressing the sciatic nerve, that is something that can be addressed with manual therapy. So with massage therapy, even acupuncture can go into the specific motor neuron points of the muscle that innervate. We can actually release that and cause less tension on or compression on the sciatic nerve.

It also involves some stretching, as well, so you do want to be involved with getting some glute stretches going on, and sometimes it's also when your glute muscles are not strong, and so maybe you're compensating on one side because of a weaker glute muscle side.


Just thought I'd talk a little bit about that. Oftentimes, people are kind of, "What do I with sciatica?" And so I just wanted to explain a little bit of the difference between two types of conditions that cause that sciatic nerve pain. 


If you have any questions, always feel free to give us a call. We'd be happy to help. Thanks, guys. 

Sciatica Part 2

Tips on how to proactively minimize potential sciatic pain during our daily living activities.

Hi there. It's Constance with BodyTx. I thought I'd talk a little bit further in depth about our sciatica conversation. In a previous video we talked about the difference between sciatica versus piriformis syndrome, sciatica being where there's compression out of the spinal cord or the vertebrae where the sciatic nerve that travels and integrates the lower part of our body is getting either compressed by a bulged disc between the vertebrae or inflamed or herniated. Those are specific conditions that need to be addressed within the spinal cord and vertebrae. Then we also have the piriformis syndrome, which is typically as a result of muscles that either are weak or strong and tight that are compressing on the nerve, the sciatic nerve that travels through the buttocks. Those are a little bit more easy to address on your own, either through strengthening and stretching and also just watching 

what you do during your daily activities.


So that's why I wanted to go a little bit more in depth about that, is that just to be aware of some things that you might be doing during the day, either at work or at home, that might be causing a little bit or exacerbating that compression of the nerve.

Talking about office work, I think it's pretty common that everyone knows that office work is not the greatest in terms of the body getting a break from being in a specific sort of state, sitting state, all the time. What we want to be careful about is the slouching forward, so the shoulders rolled forward to reach the mouse or to look at the monitor. The neck tends to jut forward a little bit like that to look at the monitor and we tend to slouch down quite a bit, because we're sitting all the time. So think about sitting upright, as tall as you can be, bringing the shoulder blades back so that they're sort of more touching the spine. Then also thinking about keeping that chin back, not jutting forward. Then just naturally what happens is that lower back, there's less compression on the lower back. Even some people like a little bit of a rolled towel or lumbar support that helps them sit straight up.


The other thing you want to remember when you're sitting is making sure that your hips are just slightly above 90 degrees from your knees. So really giving you a little bit of that 90-degree angle and not either having your knees up or really, really low from your hips, because, again, that puts compression on the lower back, which is where that sciatic nerve is housed in our spinal cord.


That's in regard to our office sitting, but also one more thing I wanted to mention is what a lot of us tend to do is the crossing of the legs, so one leg over the other. That really causes a lot of havoc in that pelvic system. One leg being over causes that pelvis to rotate forward, and then puts a lot of strain on one side of the glutes and then weakens the other side. Often we can usually guess which side that you prefer to cross the leg over the other. It really does have an effect over the long term, so think about not crossing the legs.

The other thing that's happening is when you do cross the legs, you're putting pressure on the hamstrings. The one that's resting on top of the other, that blood flow isn't able to get through the leg as easily and even the nerve gets compressed amongst those hamstrings. And this is I'm talking about the sciatic nerve that goes and integrates down into the toes. Again, just one thing to be conscious of.

In fact, I'd even recommend if you are finding that you typically do that, instead of crossing the legs what you can do is using the leg that you like to cross with, actually push down and put your ankle up on the knee and push down. Really what happens is then you end up stretching those glute muscles in the buttocks and it really is a great stretch to release some of the tension onto that sciatic nerve. That's just in regard to office work activity and sitting at the computer and what effects during the day that can sometimes cause that extra tension.

Another thing that we often recommend is, and I know how hard it can be to always think of this, but even if you set yourself a timer on your phone or your watch, every 20 minutes, we highly, highly recommend just getting up, stretching. Just side bending, where a one arm is sliding down the other down the leg and the other over your head. Just really stretching that lower back, bringing the arms back, behind your back, and just opening up the front of the chest. It really releases a lot of the strain that might be happening as a result of posture when you're sitting.

Yeah, so that's just in regard to office work. In regard to heavy labor work, obviously your workplace probably goes over this, but just another recommendation is to really think about lifting from the knees and the hips, and not always relying on that back to lift items up, because that's another source of injury for the sciatic nerve, where the lower back is overstrained as a result of heavy lifting and not using the legs. Our legs are powerful. They get us walking, moving, running, all that sort of thing. So use those muscles, that strength that you have in your knees and your hips to really bend from the knees and the hips up.

Hopefully that's helpful, a few ideas just to keep in the back of your mind when you are working during the day, and just to keep the body limber, loose, and reduce that compression that can happen on the sciatic nerve. Thanks, everyone.

Sciatica Part 3

Tips on stretches to keep sciatic pain at bay!

Hi there, it's Constance with Body TX. Just wanted to continue the conversation about the sciatica and the reason why is because we hear a lot of complaints about that specific condition. So, we had a little bit of a conversation about what the difference is between sciatica and piriformis syndrome. So, again, sciatica is due to nerve compression within the spinal cord or the vertebrae. And then piriformis syndrome is as a result of compression from the glute muscles of the sciatica nerve that travels through the gluts area, and usually piriformis syndrome is something that we can maintain, keep at bay and manage once we know that that's the case of what's causing the sciatic pain.

So, I just wanted to talk a little bit about some more exercises and daily stretches that you can do just to keep the body maintained in regard to maybe some daily activities that you do. If you're cyclists, if you do a lot of maybe rowing, especially in the summer here, got a lot of water sports that people are doing that maybe cause a little more strain on the lower back. So, I just wanted to show a few exercises that might help during the daytime, in the morning if you're waking up, or even in the shower if you're just loosening up the muscles with some heat from the hot water, and even in the evening. It's another great way to just keep the body limber and moving.

So, a few ideas for stretching and even if you're in the office, you can sort of get up from the chair and start doing some of these stretches. So, one I mentioned in a previous video was to just bring the arm to the side and stretching down and just raising, stretching that lower side of the body and the lower back. Try and keep the back somewhat so the neck over the shoulder, not leaning forward, not leaning too far back, but just to the side.

Another idea is to lean back and just to slowly, so just sort of doing the opposite of what you would be doing if you're at a computer or a desk crouching forward. So, just leaning back and you'll feel a little bit of pressure on the back, the lower back here, but just opening it up and stretching and opening up the front of the neck here too.

Another idea is with a chair. And a lot of people know this typical stretch. Basically, you're just doing sort of a lunge and stretching the front of the hip flexor and also the calf muscle in the back. So you're just getting that stretch in the calf muscle, which is also important because the sciatic nerve does have nerve distribution nerves that travel down the hamstrings and the calf right into the base of the foot. So, that calf can cause also some compressions too. So, you do want to stretch that out and then it also helps to stretch the hip flexor as well, especially if you're sitting or if you're lifting up a lot of items. These tend to get very tight and cause the hip to rotate sort of forward like this, and causes even more tension in the lower back. So we want to kind of keep that balanced by 

stretching out those hip flexors as well.


One more other stretch that I wanted to show that is mentioned in a previous video as well is just sitting here. If you're sitting, you want to bring the leg, ankle right onto the top of the other knee here and just leaning forward. And if you really are able to, you can push down on the knee here and then you feel it right in the gluts here. So, just stretching, leaning forward. That is a great exercise to stretch the piriformis.


Hopefully you find this helpful and thanks for Reading.