Sciatic pain can be a daily or intermittent annoyance. Young or old, this pain has the ability to shoot pains up and down the legs in an electrifying jolt and can also create numbness, weakness, and muscle spasms. In my years as a trainer, I’ve seen it affect desk workers, elderly, pregnant women, and individuals with specific occupations. While it seems like a no win situation, sciatic nerve pain can be controlled, relieved, and remedied with the right tools and fitness tips. You might have to work at it, but eventually with guidance you can understand the causes of this aggravating issue.
What Causes Sciatic Pain?
The sciatic never can be seen in the image below. It’s a nerve that runs the length of the leg and is often pinched by tight muscles and misalignments. Over the years, I was able to identify this pain very quickly because so many of my clients were affect. They would come in with complaints of a shooting pain, some having trouble both walking and sitting. I began to identify the muscles that seemed to be the major contributors to this issue which was usually tight glute muscles and tight piriformis muscles.
Look at the image and notice how the piriformis muscle wraps over the top of the nerve. When this muscle gets overly tight, it pushes down on the nerve causing a pinching. This is enough to decrease the circulation in the nerve. In response, the nerve fires back with pain, numbness, and eventually inflammation.
How to Treat Sciatic Pain
The best way to knock out the pain is to address the piriformis muscle with foam rolling. Use this exercise below.
How to foam roll your piriformis muscle and Glute Muscle
Piriformis Make sure the foam roller is only on one side. Cross the same foot as the side you are foam rolling over the opposite knee. Roll from the low back, all the way over the glute until it meets the hamstring. You will find the piriformis in the middle of the glute muscle as you are rolling over it, this is usually the most tender area as well. I always tell clients to target the area of the butt that has the side indentation (think of the image of the statue of David, his butt had a side indentation).
Roll to one area that feels tender. Place the foam roller on the knot for 15 – 20 seconds, or until 70 – 80 % of the pain has decreased. In extreme cases, the pain will not dissipate so you will have to rely on the 15 – 20 second rule for your foam rolling session.
Fitness tip: If you can’t get onto the floor to do this exercise, try placing the foam roller on a chair. Sit on the foam roller and lean onto the affected side. Follow the 15 – 20 seconds on each knot.
Stretching your piriformis
If you can’t foam roll this area, try stretching it through out the day. Use the “number 4” stretch to relieve tension and increase circulation to the affected area.
Note: In my professional opinion, stretching alone will not be enough to release the tension from the knot causing the inflammation. Trigger point massage done by a person may help, but repetitive use of the foam roller seems to have the most lasting benefits.
If you are really inflamed, you may also have to address the inflammation with higher amounts of anti inflammatories. The inflammation will cause aggravation to the affected area regardless so it’s important to address both. If you shy away from using over the counter medications, try using a good quality curcumin to help decrease the inflammation naturally.
*Keep in mind that if you are using anti inflammatories, you will have to do larger amounts (usually 500 – 700mg) 3 times a day for 2 – 3 days to really knock out the inflammation. It is VERY important that you take anti inflammatories with food and loads of water so that it doesn’t affect your kidneys. I am not a doctor so make sure you discuss this with your primary care physician.
Choosing your Foam Roller
There are various types of foam rollers floating around the web. The white one in the picture above is known as a beginner foam roller because it’s softer and gives more with pressure. While that’s ok, the white foam rollers break down fast and repetitive use will having you buying another one in 2 – 3 months. I always recommend buying a black foam roller. The longer versions are more versatile, while the shorter ones are easier to store. Click here to see our top seller in the Fit Tip Store.
Once you’ve address the inflammation and root cause (piriformis muscles and glutes), you should find relief relatively quickly from sciatic pain. If you have a seated job or a job that requires repetitive use of your glutes and lower back, you should use the foam roller on a daily basis to keep these muscles relaxed and flexible. Take care of your body and it will take care of you!