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Sciatica / Piriformis syndrome

The sciatic nerve is the largest peripheral nerve in the body. It starts around the lower back and runs down the back of the leg. Sciatica is a condition that some people have when there is pressure on the sciatica nerve.

This pressure may come from herniated discs in the lower back or it may come from tight buttock muscles (the gluteus medius and/or the piriformis) muscle. In some people, the sciatic nerve runs straight through these muscles, in others, alongside it. Either way, when you overwork these buttock muscles they can impinge on the sciatic nerve and cause pain which will travel through the buttock possibly all the way to the foot, and sometimes up into the lower back as well.

A Self Test

Sciatica often occurs in people who work the external hip rotator muscles. That is, those muscles which activate a "turn out". Stand with your feet in parallel and squeeze all the muscles you can between your naval and the top of your thighs. Now turn the feet out and squeeze the same area. You should feel that you are able to engage the side buttock muscles in the "turnout" position.

Now sit on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you. Relax back on your arms and examine your feet/legs. Does one leg flop out to the side and the other stay in parallel? The leg/foot that flops out is going to be the side on which you experience sciatic pain so if your leg does do this you can now correct it.

The next time you are driving your car or sitting as a passenger, observe what your "sore leg" does. Do you keep it in parallel or once again do you let it drop out to the side? This "flopping out" or dropping out will continuously put pressure on the sciatic never because the buttock muscle is continuously engaged. Try from this moment on to keep your legs in parallel to avoid this constant engagement and hence impingement on the sciatic nerve.

Sciatica Exercises and Stretches

Now that you have done the self test, it is time to move on the exercises and stretches which I have identified over a decade of working with clients who suffer from low back pain and muscular related sciatica.

What you will find when you go through the exercises & stretches in the video below is that some will really work, in that you will feel a tremendous stretch whereas others may give you little or no stretch at all. Try them all, then prioritise the stretches in terms of which felt the strongest as that will be where your body is tightest.


It is also a good idea to do these stretches in the middle or at the end of the day. Don't do them first thing in the morning especially if you are one of these people who experience pain at night when turning over in bed, or pain getting out of the bed first thing in the morning.
With regular stretching your body should start to respond and any back or sciatic pain should start to diminish. If the pain doesn't go away or gets worse, then you should definitely seek medical advice.