What is Sciatica

Sciatic nerve pain is caused by compression of the sciatic nerve in the lumbar spine. This can cause pain in the lower back or send a radiating pain signal down the back of the leg. Common symptoms include:

  • Lower back pain
  • Tingling
  • A “pins & needles” feeling
  • A “pinched” feeling
  • Numbness

Sciatica either occurs from a direct injury (fall, car or sports accident, etc.), or is more commonly symptomatic of postural disorders.

Common FAQs

Why is the sciatic nerve important?

It sends electrical signals to muscles to fire. Without it you couldn’t use your legs. Think of a circuit breaker box, wiring and switches in your home or car. If a wire is damaged your lights and appliances won’t work. It’s very similar in the human body.

Where is the sciatic nerve located?

The human spine is composed of 7 cervical vertebrae, 12 thoracic vertebrae, and 5 lumbar vertebrae. The sciatic nerve enters and exits the 4th and 5th lumbar vertebrae and Sacrum 1-3. It controls many muscles on the back side to the leg.

Can sciatica cause nerve damage?

Not necessarily. It is more likely that the compression of the nerve by the vertebral bone or nucleus pulposus can cause significant pain and irritation. However, the nerve can be damaged, but peripheral nerves can repair themselves once the compression and irritation is mitigated. Chronic sciatica could lead to nerve damage which would feel like chronic burning, stabbing pain or tingling.

Is sciatica a disability?

Sciatica can be devastating and completely disabling for 2-6 weeks or for an entire lifetime if it is not properly treated. It can disrupt every facet of your life: work, exercise, picking up your kids, going to the bathroom, sex, and sleep.

What Causes Sciatica

We live in a digital world in which we are surrounded by keyboards, mice, cell phones, cheap food, and media trying to preach exercise programs that may make you look good, but will damage your body in the long run. Poor occupational safety practices and equipment, such as mice and keyboards. Poor exercise protocol-choice of exercise, ordering of exercise program, and length and intensity of every exercise. Additionally, obesity and muscle imbalance are common causes. The following are some of the most common causes sciatica:

Common Causes of Sciatica

Asymmetrical Occupational Tasks

There is no such thing as an occupationally correct work task. You always have to place your body through repetitive tasks that are not mechanically conducive to your body. Doctors report that the 1 and number 2 complaints are neck pain and lower back pain. A majority of these complaints are strains and sprains. Typically, these are caused by repetitive asymmetrical motions that overload tendons and muscles which can lead to pain and tension. These issues can usually be overcome by doing 15 minutes of corrective stretching and strengthening exercise before and after work.

Incorrectly Designed Workstations

No workstation is perfect. Typically, designers of machines don’t think much about human anatomy or physiology when creating workstations. Instead, they think more about efficiency and the cheapest way to build the workstation. However, workstations can be improved and having an ergonomic workstation can greatly reduce the chances of you developing sciatica. Book our Ergonomic Workstation Assessment today.

Lack of Motion

Most nutrition and pharmaceutical experts agree that motion and exercise are important preventative measures for sciatica. All 10 systems in the human body expect and rely on motion to work optimally. Lack of motion can lead to weak and hypertensive muscles that can lead to strains, sprains and joint degeneration.

Lack of Proper Exercise & Posture Knowledge

Successful people admit when they don’t know something and seek to expand their knowledge. This is why they often surround themselves with experts that improve their business and personal lives. This It’s no different with your body.

Hip flexor stretch

No two bodies are the same. Everyone is unique, thus so to are the health strategies necessary for achieving and maintaining a high quality of life. These vary from person-to-person. Book a Postural Assessment & Gait Analysis today and receive a program tailored to you and preventing sciatica.

Incorrect Exercise

An exercise prescription not based on repetitive postural and gait analysis can often increase your risk of developing sciatica. An exercise program designed to prevent sciatica should reflect your neuromusculoskeletal deficits and lab work. This will help to prevent injuries whilst helping you to achieve your goals expeditiously and in accordance with sound scientific principles.

Incorrect Diet

To Many Monocots What are Monocots?

Monocots are carbohydrates derived from the grass family. Homosapiens, unlike cows and other herbivores, have digestive systems that are not designed to eat large quantities of this type of carbohydrate. Monocots can negatively affect the integrity of all 10 systems of the body. This includes the integrity of the spine.

Too Many Inflammatory Omega 6’s & Too Few Anti-Inflammatory Omega 3’s

The average American has a 20:1 ratio of omega 6 fatty acids compared to omega 3 fatty acids. This should be between 1:1 and 4:1. Both fatty acids are vital to our survival and must be consumed to sustain life. Chronic inflammation and pain can be partially or fully attributed to an excess of omega 6 fatty acids.

A Lack G.A.G.S, Collagen, and Trace Minerals.

These nutrients are the building blocks of the cartilage tissue that support your joints. They provide the post potent antioxidant defenses to protect all of your cells from oxidative damage.

Dehydration

Water is less than .9 oz. per lbs. of body-weight. Drinking too little water can negatively impact your cartilage, discs, muscles, tendons, bone and ligaments.

What can make sciatica worse?

Working through the pain is probably the worst thing you can do. You have to listen to your body. Poor nutritional habits can cause further degradation of the structures impinging the sciatic nerve. Nutrients are building blocks that help repair structures that are damaged. Incorrect strengthening and stretching exercises can exacerbate the symptoms. You have to take this very seriously, eat correctly, get a Postural Assessment, and an exercise program based upon that assessment and your symptoms. You can’t go about your normal work and exercise program. Also, do your best to avoid NSAIDS and SAIDS. They may help relieve pain, but they actually make matters worse by releasing the catabolic hormones elastase and collagenase-one step forward and two steps back. These two enzymes eat your cartilage, ligament, and other supporting structures. There are plenty good supplements and foods out there that can decrease inflammation and simultaneously rebuild damage tissue.

Does sitting make sciatica worse?

The physics and physiology of sitting usually make sciatica worse. Some people feel better because a greater torque is generally placed on the lumbar vertebrae and sacrum from a standing position. However, sitting encourages greater dysfunction in the hip flexors and gluteus maximus muscles. These muscles are typically responsible for a majority of the dysfunction related to sciatic nerve pain.

How to Diagnose Sciatica

Location and severity of the pain can generally tell a health care professional if it’s sciatica. Usually, pain/numbness in the glutes that continues down the back of the leg are indicators. Muscle testing, x-rays, and MRIs can also assist with a more exact diagnosis.

Common Symptoms of Sciatica

Isolated pain originated in the last two lumbar vertebrae or upper sacrum, or a radiating pain down the back of the leg are common symptoms. Weakness, spasms, and cramps in those areas are also common.

How to Treat Sciatica

Before treatment begins one must go through a postural assessment to identify boney misalignment. This will tell our practitioner which muscles and nerves are not working properly. With this data postural a corrective program is designed to mitigate the misalignments that are causing you pain. Most of our clients are re-assessed once per week and will go through 6-10 programs to mitigate the pain.

Home Remedies for Sciatica

It’s IMPOSSIBLE to give a general set of exercises without seeing the person first. There are so many possibilities. Generally laying on your back with your legs elevated on a couch or chair with your hips and knees bent to 90 degrees for 15-30 minutes is helpful. Get rid of animal fatty foods, eat lots of water and drink .9 oz. of water per lbs. of body-weight per day. Wearing a back brace temporarily can be helpful.

Can a massage help sciatica?

We are frequently asked how to treat sciatica with massage and many people want to know what is the best massage for sciatica. While a massage can help relieve sciatic nerve pain, not every masseuse knows what they’re doing. You have to find a massage therapist that knows what massage is best for sciatica and who is highly skilled in postural assessment and pain relief massage techniques

Can a chiropractor help sciatic?

A lot of people look for Chiropractors for Sciatica and yes, they can help however not every chiropractor knows what they’re doing. A Chiropractic Adjustment for Sciatica can help realign spines however untrained and/or inexperienced chiropractors can permanently injure clients. A chiropractor that does an x-ray and full postural assessment is a good first step. Generally speaking, you should probably avoid seeking Chiropractic Care for Sciatica unless you are willing to do your due diligence.

How can I calm my sciatic nerve pain?

Questions regarding the topic of Sciatic Nerve Pain Relief are some of the most common we get. If you are looking for How to Relieve Sciatic Nerve Pain then the most important thing to remember is to avoid bearing weight on your spine. This includes standing or sitting. Lying on the floor and elevating your legs is sometimes the best relief for sciatic nerve pain. Drinking lots of water, eating an anti-inflammatory diet, and eating a low Calorie diet (cells repair faster) are very helpful. Most importantly, get a Postural Assessment and corrective exercise program immediately.

Does sciatica go away on its own?

Rest, alone, can be very helpful for sciatic nerve pain relief. Avoiding activities that cause pain is also helpful. However, when it comes to a pinched sciatic nerve it’s likely that the pain will persist until you seek treatment. Our Postural Assessment is a great first step towards developing the best treatment for sciatic nerve pain.

How long will sciatica take to heal?

Healing sciatica is a process and nobody can give an exact answer as to how long it takes to heal sciatica. We can say with clinical certainty that if you’ve been dealing with chronic back problems it may not ever go away until you decide to get a Postural Assessment and corrective exercise program. One of our clients suffered from acute sciatic pain for more than 40 years which which completely dissipated after one session with us. However this was an outlier. Most of our clients achieve substantial sciatica pain relief in less than 6 weeks.

Can sciatica be cured?

Currently there is no medical cure for sciatic nerve pain. However there are natural ways to remedy sciatica without surgery. In the end, these remedies depend on the severity of your bone and disc degeneration. The sciatic nerve and surrounding muscles have to be re-trained which in turn will re-align the skeleton. Along with good nutrition, this is where healing begins.

How should I lay with sciatica?

Lay in a position that feels comfortable. Again, lying flat on your back with your legs elevated is very helpful. When sleeping, lie on your back with no pillow or an orthopedic pillow, and place 1 or more pillows under your knees is more therapeutic on your spine compared to sleeping on your side.

Exercises for Sciatica

Below are the stretches Bare Health would suggest for someone experiencing sciatica. These stretches can lightly be preformed daily to experience sciatica relief. As always please consult with your doctor before preforming any exercises.

Static Back

Static Back is the most effective treatment for nearly any musculoskeletal disorder that is causing pain and tension. It stretches and deactivates overly used muscles. This provides a neutral foundation for retraining dormant neuropathways. It’s difficult to retrain dormant neuropathways and weak muscles when the opposing muscle group is overly used and tight. The are 3 types of muscles. Slow twitch, intermediate, and fast twitch. Slow twitch have a lot of endurance and are responsible for posture. Fast twitch muscles have very little endurance and are responsible for quick dynamic motions-like sprinting. They are not responsible for posture. Slow twitch muscles adapt to: injury, overuse, underuse, poor posture, poor exercise protocol/prescription, and poor occupational ergonomics by shortening (shortened muscle spindle) specific postural muscles. This causes a deactivation of the opposing muscle group and nerves. Fast twitch muscles adapt to injury, overuse, underuse, poor posture, poor exercise protocol/prescription, and poor occupational ergonomics by deactivation of the nervous signals and muscular connectivity. This creates imbalances between the agonist and antagonist muscle groups which creates bad posture and number of symptoms like sciatica.

Static Back

How to do Static Back:

  1. Place calves on chair, couch, or block
  2. Your knees and hips should be bent to 90 degrees
  3. Align legs and feet in a parallel position
  4. Do not place hands under head
  5. Palms should be facing upwards by your side
  6. Hold for 20-30 mins

Glute contractions

Glute contractions are one of the most powerful weapons for fighting sciatic- and bad posture. A majority of people with sciatica have an forward tilted Pelvis. This is caused by tight rectus femoris and tight psoas major hip flexor muscles which are postural muscles. Conversely, the gluteus maximus (hip extensor muscle) is neurological deactivated, the gluteal contraction exercise innervates the gluteus maximus muscle and deactivates the the tight hip flexors. This brings the pelvic alignment back to neutral or about zero degrees. This takes the pressure off of the sciatic nerve.

glute contractions

How to do Glute Contractions:

  1. Align the legs and feet in a parallel position.
  2. Contract glutes, and don’t contract abs. This is challenging for most people.
  3. The Pelvis should rock back and forth.
  4. Hold the squeeze for 2 seconds and release for 1 second.
  5. Keep blades slightly contracted, hands by your side and palms up.
  6. Repeat for 10 minutes.

Scapula Contractions

This addresses upper and lower body misalignments that lead to bad posture, and sciatic pain. Typically, Pectoralis major, biceps and lats are predominately postural muscles and are very shortened. This causes a deactivation of the traps 2 and 3 and rhomboid muscles. Doing this exercise will help to correct upper body muscle and nerve imbalances which asymmetrically load the lumbar and sacrum which lead to sciatica. It does this by strengthening the upper back muscles and turning off the pecs, lats and biceps.

Scapula contractions

How to do Scapula Contractions:

  1. Lie on back your back with feet parallel or pigeon toed.
  2. Face palms upwards and down by your side
  3. Tuck chin down
  4. Squeeze shoulder blades together down and back.
  5. Hold the squeeze for 2 seconds and release for 1 second.
  6. Repeat for 2 mins.

Military Press

This addresses upper and lower body misalignments that lead to bad posture, and sciatic pain. It is very similar to scapula contractions, but a more intense stretching and strengthening exercise. Typically, Pectoralis major, biceps and lats are predominately postural muscles and are very shortened. This causes a deactivation of the traps 2 and 3 and rhomboid muscles. Doing this exercise will help to correct upper body muscle and nerve imbalances which asymmetrically load the lumbar and sacrum which lead to sciatica. It does this by strengthening the upper back muscles and turning off the pecs, lats and biceps.

Military presses

How to do Military Presses:

  1. Align legs and feet in a parallel position
  2. Contract glutes and abs
  3. Form a 90 at elbows.
  4. Tuck chin down
  5. Touch fingers and wrists to ground
  6. Slide arms upward and touch fingers
  7. Repeat 3 sets of 5-10 and build up to 3 sets of 20

Ball Squeeze or Belt Press

This addresses lower body misalignment that lead to bad posture and sciatic nerve pain. A majority of people that have sciatic nerve pain have femur bones and patella (knee cap) that rotate inwards, outwards, or a combination of both. This rotation causes massive imbalances from the thoracic vertebrae all the way to the feet, and even affects upper body posture.

Outward rotation is usually caused by the shortening of the biceps femoris hamstring muscles and psoas major muscles which are postural muscles. Conversely, this causes deactivation of the gluteus medius and minimus muscles. The ball squeeze exercise will turn off the tight muscles/nerves and turn on the weak neuropathways/muscles that we just discussed.

Inward rotation is usually caused by a weakening of the gluteus maximus muscles and nerves, and overuse & hypertonicity of semitendinosus and semimembranosus hamstring muscles. The belt press exercise will turn off the tight and muscles/nerves and turn on the weak neuropathways/muscles that we just discussed.

Below is a block squeeze:

Block Squeeze

 

Below is a belt press:

Belt Press

How to do a ball squeeze or belt press:

  1. First identify if your knees point inwards or outwards.
  2. If knees are outwards do a ball squeeze
  3. Align legs and feet in a parallel position
  4. Place ball in between knees and squeeze
  5. Squeeze for 3 sets of 1 min
  6. If knees are inwards do a belt press
  7. Align legs and feet in a parallel position
  8. Place yoga belt above the knees and push outward
  9. Push for 3 sets of 1 min

If you have any questions about sciatica please feel free to reach out to Tessa or Matt Kathol for a consultation.

Tessa Mini – tessa@barehealthandfitness.com

Matt Kathol – matt@barehealthandfitness.com