Sciatica refers to pain that radiates down the back of your leg, often extending all the way from the lower back to the lower leg. Pain is often described as "sharp" or "tingling" and is due to caused by compression of the sciatic nerve. Muscle weakness may accompany the pain. The sciatic nerve runs from your spinal cord in your lower back down the back of each leg, and is the longest nerve in your body.
It's important to remember that sciatica is a symptom, not a disorder. The radiating pain of sciatica signals a problem involving the nerve. The cause of sciatic pain can be as serious as a herniated disk or traumatic injury of the vertebrate, or something as simple as a tight muscle.
Piriformis Syndrome refers to compression of the sciatic nerve by the piriformis muscle. The piriformis muscle is a muscle deep in the buttocks, under the gluteal muscles, that helps rotate the hip. The sciatic nerve winds its way under this muscle and can be compressed at this point if the piriformis muscle is chronically tight. In a small percentage of the population, the sciatic nerve passes through the piriformis muscle, making them more susceptible to Piriformis Syndrome.
Massage is effective at relieving sciatic pain caused by Piriformis Syndrome. Massage reduces tension in the piriformis and other mucles in the buttocks, alleviating compression of the sciatic nerve. I typically employ a mix of muscle lengthening and relaxation techniques, stretches, and Trigger Point release during treatment for Piriformis Syndrome. Relief may be felt after a single session, but often 4 or more weekly sessions are needed to fully relax the piriformis muscle. Maintenance massage can help prevent re-occurrence.
To help prevent and relieve pain from Piriformis Syndrome at home:
- Sit in an ergonomically efficient position with hips level.
- Get rid of the fat wallet in your back pocket when you sit down.
- Stretching the piriformis muscle can help reduce muscle tension and thereby reduce compression on the sciatic nerve. Try the seated piriformis stretch in this YouTube video. Include it as part of a series of lower back and hip stretches.