by Dr. Corey
You may not know what sciatica, or sciatic pain is, but you’ve probably heard a relative or someone you know mention it. They might claim that they’re in severe pain, or even be “down” for a while. Well, I can say from personal experience, they are not exaggerating!
Sciatica is a term used to describe the referral of pain down the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is made up of multiple nerves that come from L4 through S3. If you are unfamiliar with what L4 through S3 means it refers to the 4th lumbar vertebra through the 3rd segment of the sacrum.
Sciatica is typically caused after a disc in the lower back becomes irritated and puts pressure on a nerve. This often happens after trying to lift something that is too heavy. Sciatica can also be caused by the piriformis muscle in a condition called piriformis syndrome. After the nerves from the low back form the sciatic nerve it passes through the piriformis muscle. When the piriformis muscle becomes tight, or spasms, this causes symptoms of sciatica. Common symptoms are burning, tingling, numbness, and at times, it can feel like a jolt of lightning. Most of the time only one side is affected but there are cases where pain is felt on both sides. Pain usually starts in the low back, or buttocks area, and can travel down the back of the thigh to the knee and ankle.
When this happened to me, towards the end of 2020, I was trying to lift more weight than I could handle. The pain started when I was doing squats. I felt and heard my sacrum “pop”. It dropped me to the ground - it was the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. Definitely a 10/10 on the bubble sheet! Initially the pain was fairly local to my left glute, but later that day the sciatic pain started. It radiated from my left glute to my left ankle. Early on, chiropractic care was about the only thing that reduced my pain. I was being treated by Dr. Nicole at least three times a week for several weeks. I also tried epsom salt baths, which worked very well. Overall, the pain lasted about two months. Nothing changed overnight like I wished it would.
The moral of my story is that yes, pain sucks, but you have to take the initiative to get better. It doesn’t happen overnight and it takes a lot of work to improve. Don’t let pain control your life. Control your pain! If you ever experience sciatica first hand don’t just sit around and wait for the pain to go away come in and see us! We will help you manage your pain. Here are three exercises to relieve sciatic pain:
1. Start by lying on your stomach with two pillows underneath your hips (a). After one minute remove a pillow, after two minutes remove the second pillow and continue lying on your stomach for one more minute. You may also end this exercise by pushing up to your forearms for one minute (b). If this movement is too painful lower yourself to a position that doesn’t hurt, or go back to your stomach. The final stage of this exercise, if you haven’t experienced any pain thus far, is to do press ups for up to 30 seconds (c). These exercises can be done every hour. If any pain is felt go back to laying on your stomach. What this progression is designed to do is help relieve the pressure of the lumbar discs on the nerves that come together to form the sciatic nerve.
2. This position is called roadkill. Start out lying flat on your stomach and with the leg that hurts, draw your leg up, on the side that hurts, close to a 90o angle. Keep the other leg somewhat straight. Hold this position for one minute. You can do this several times as long as it is relieving pain. Do this every hour.
3. This side lying position is great for sciatica flare ups. You will want to grab one or two pillows for this and put them underneath your feet and ankles. A lot of people find that after laying like this for a few minutes their sciatica symptoms will decrease.