Sciatica is what most people think is the reason for their low back pain, especially when it radiates down into any part of the leg. And while that MAY be the nerve that is being affected, it may not be the root of the problem. There a few different, and distinct things that might be causing the problem. And not surprisingly, most are related to our lifestyles!
Sciatica is more from disk problems than muscle problems (although not necessarily!)
The sciatic nerve come from your lower back and runs all the ay down to your foot.
This means that irritation of it can cause pain anywhere along its’ path (the area in red in the illustration above). The pain is usually in the extreme lower back and radiates into the buttock on one or (heaven forbid) both sides, and may go down the leg. It may also be in ONLY the leg, or just one part of it. It usually gets worse with exertion or bending forward.
The sciatic nerve normally goes under the piriformis muscle, but in 15% – 20% of people, it passes through it instead.
The symptoms can be the same as sciatica, but may be pain in the groin, perineum (low abdomen), and/or hip. It to is aggravated by activity or sitting, but also by simply standing.
The mischief maker
The psoas muscle is another possible cause. While the two above are more common, psoas syndrome might be the cause of your problems. This muscle runs between the lower spine and your hip, and helps you move your hip when you walk or run.
Sciatic pain symptoms can be present here too. However, you may have bowel movement problems, postural problems (usually low back sway), leg length discrepancies (internal rotation of your leg on the affected side. The opposite leg will rotate externally in an effort to counter-balance. This will make the affected leg longer so that every time you take a step, it drives your leg up into your hip socket), and groin pain.
If you sit for prolonged periods, your problem may not be sciatica. The two other syndromes I mentioned above can be caused by prolonged sitting, poor lifting techniques (!!!!!), pelvic muscle weakness, scoliosis (an abnormal spine curvature), or even sleeping in the fetal position (one position which seems to help relieve sciatic symptoms when they flare). Proper stretching – daily – regardless if you have these problems or not, getting up and moving around a few times a day, and abdominal strengthening exercises can all help minimize the chance of you having a problem.
Exercises to help once you already have one of these are more specific to what the problem is. However, abdominal exercises (and I do NOT mean stit-ups or crunches!!!) as well as leg stretching can all help relieve symptoms and minimize problems. Probably the best abdominal exercise that has helped me is planking.
I must admit I don’t do it daily like I should, but I am going to embark on that next week. Beginning Monday I am committing to planking daily. Start small – do 15 – 30 seconds (that can be harder than you think!), and work your way up to 3 minutes or more.
As always, should you decide to start something like this, talk with your provider first and make sure it’s safe for you. And, should you have any pain, especially sharp and acute pain that radiates, stop immediately and seek appropriate attention. NO exercise is benign, and there are always inherent potential downsides to them. You can easily injure yourself permanently by doing something wrong!! While I advocate exercise, I also advocate safety! Do any exercise I discuss only after becoming well informed if it’s safe for you and if it will help.