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Sciatica and Piriformis Syndrome

Written by: Louise O'Brien Date of published: .

Sciatica is most commonly caused by a condition known as Piriformis Syndrome, this can be a very uncomfortable painful experience that can affect your daily activities and cause sleepless nights. The piriformis is a relatively small muscle located in the buttocks and joins the sacrum to the greater trochanter, (main connection point) in the hip. This muscle allows external rotation of the thigh and helps us to keep our balance when walking. A rather large nerve called the Sciatic nerve runs down the entire length of the leg splitting into smaller nerves in our feet. The Sciatic nerve typically runs alongside the piriformis, however the nerve can pass through or extremely close to the piriformis muscle. If the piriformis muscle goes into spasm or a long term contraction, this can lead to sciatic nerve compression causing pain deep in the buttocks, that can radiate into the lower back and down the posterior side of the leg, sometimes even all the way to the ankle. Falling on your buttocks, sitting for long periods of time, strenuous exercise such as long distance running along with some poor lifestyle choices can cause the piriformis to go into spasm or long term contraction.

What can you do to help yourself?

Overtime the following may cure or at least dramatically reduce your discomfort   · Rest from exercise – this will allow inflammation of the muscle to subside taking compression off the nerve.   · Take a magnesium supplement. Many people are particularly deficient in this essential mineral; one of its very important functions is the relaxation of muscle tissue, (including even the heart muscle).   · Stretch – when muscles contract this puts pressure on the nerve. Learn a few gluteal stretches. This is beneficial for the entire lower back region as well.   · Use a foam roller to stretch and lengthen your buttock muscles, hamstrings and Ilotibial Band, (ITB.). The ITB is a band of tissue, similar to a tendon that runs down the outside of your legs and connects to you gluteus muscle at one end and crosses the knee and connects to the tibia below the knee, this has the tendency to shorten up in some people and can put pressure on the sciatic nerve. You can watch YouTube videos on how to use a foam roller.   · Use a tennis ball – place a firm tennis ball between your buttock and the wall. Press in firmly and move your body up and down against the wall-this will help lengthen and soften contracted tissue.   · Have regular deep tissue massage. This will help maintain and keep flexible soft tissue as well as enhance circulation to stagnant and contracted muscle areas.   · Try acupuncture or dry needling. These can provide a means of pain relief as well as stimulate muscle relaxation.   · Reduce caffeine intake. Caffeine has several effects that can be detrimental to our muscle health. One key issue with caffeine is that it inhibits mineral absorption. If your muscles can’t absorb essential minerals such as magnesium then spasms can occur. Caffeine also has the tendency to make our bodies acidic and more prone to break down.   · Drink plenty of water. Many aches and pains are as a result of chronic dehydration. A really good rule of thumb is to drink a litre of water for every 25kg of your bodyweight everyday. Best that you drink filtered water free of fluoride and chlorine as these heavy metals can play havoc with your thyroid gland and mineral absorption. When you consider that our bodies are composed of 70-80% water it is essential to keep replenishing as we lose moisture on a daily basis through sweat, excretions and through chemical reactions taking place in our body.   . Finally look at stress in your life. Stress has long been associated with tightening muscles, (muscle tension) and pain. Look at ways to reduce the stress in your life and find more time for yourself.   If none of the above provides long-term relief, consult your doctor for further investigation as your discomfort may be of a different nature.  

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