At one time or another, nearly everyone will experience pain caused by sciatica. Sciatic nerve pain originates in the lower back (or butt) and extends down the leg. It hurts like heck and can interrupt your life.
Rather than simply trying to treat the symptoms (i.e. pain) of sciatica, let’s talk about its origins. To understand its cause, let’s take a look at the piriformis muscle. The piriformis muscle is a small muscle located deep in the buttock. It starts at the lower spine and connects to the upper surface of each femur (thighbone). Its primary purpose is to enable you to rotate the hip and turn the leg and foot outward.
When we play pickleball this muscle tightens to prevent us from falling over during lateral movements, such as those at the non-volley zone line. It can also tighten to compensate for excess weight, or if one sits on soft furniture with poor posture over extended periods of time. Since the sciatic nerve runs along the piriformis, this tightening can cause a pinching of the nerve. Traumatic injury, such as a herniated disk can also cause sciatic nerve pain.
Stretch, Stretch, Stretch
Most sciatica can be treated at home by stretching. I realize it seems so easy, and inexpensive, but it actually works in a majority of cases. I fixed my own sciatica by spending 6 hours a day stretching in a course. Of course, I don’t expect you to do that….but I am suggesting you spend an hour a day, every day for at least one week to relieve the pain on your own. The following routine will take you about 15 minutes and should be repeated throughout the day:
Begin by sitting on a firm chair (most kitchen chairs will do). While sitting cross your right ankle across your left knee. Sitting tall, keeping your back straight, push your right knee toward the floor and slowly lean forward. Hold this position for two to three minutes and then change legs.
Lie on your back on the floor or another hard surface with your legs outstretched. Place your right ankle over your left knee. Keep your shoulder blades on the floor and pull your knee to your chest. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds and repeat 10 times. Repeat the exercise with the other leg.
Sit on a bench or the floor with your knees bent as shown. Lean forward, walking your hands from right to left. Remain faces forward as you do this exercise.
Remember to breathe whenever you are stretching. Grimacing in pain is not beneficial. Breathe into the stretch and stop before you can’t control your facial expression.
When To Seek Professional Help
A friend has recently sought the services of a stretch therapist to help her with her sciatic nerve pain. However, most people will find relief if they work at it diligently at home. There are some cases when it is wise to seek the assistance of a medical professional. As mentioned above, some cases of sciatica are caused by traumatic injury to the spine. If you experience numbness or weakness in the leg or loss bladder or bowel function please make an appointment with your healthcare provider.