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Sciatica Explained: What is it and how to make it go away



Let’s talk about sciatica


Let’s talk about the pain patterns that can revolve around sciatica, what the heck Sciatica even is… because it's a little bit of an umbrella term that can get thrown around a lot.  And then of course we will talk about some solutions for what to do if you have sciatica and how to get it to go away!


Thanks again for joining me. My name is Linnea. I own a rehabilitative Pilates studio here in Olympia, Washington. I focus a lot on helping people with chronic pain patterns, nagging old injuries, and functional strength.  I myself have gone through many, many surgeries, lots of chronic pain and spinal injuries, so I’ve been there and I am very dedicated to helping folks get out of pain and learn how to trust their body again. 




Bones, Joints, and Nerves


The sciatic nerve is a big nerve that actually weaves through the back of your pelvis.  So you have your spine and your spine comes down and it meets your pelvis and right in that zone is where a lot of nerves come out of the spinal cord itself and start their journey down into the leg. 


The sciatic nerve is the biggest nerve by far in this area. It's this huge bundle that wraps through the back of the pelvis and goes down the legs.  Some of the confusion arises because there can be a lot of pain patterns that arise in this low back and sacral area.  But just because there is pain in this area, doesn’t mean that it is what we might call a straight forward type of sciatica.  What sciatica is, in the most straightforward and literal sense, is when the sciatic nerve is compromised.  This negative impact on the nerve can come from many sources.  For example, there might be an issue in the spinal column itself, maybe a herniated disk in the spine for example, and that herniated disk might be negatively impacting the sciatic nerve.  If this is the case then there might be a more primary issue happening in the body, and the “sciatica” is more of a secondary outcome of a larger issue. 


There are a couple other patterns that I see frequently causing a negative impact on the sciatic nerve. One is a soft tissue issue… for example, maybe the piriformis muscle (which is a small muscle in the hip) might be inflamed and this inflammation can push on the sciatic nerve and inhibit it’s flow. Muscle imbalances throughout the hips and legs could be contributing to the soft tissue around the sciatic nerve having issues. You might recognize this in your body as a soft tissue issue where the primary symptoms feel like tight muscles, achy muscles, dull and broad general achiness combined with some nerve pain or numbness feeling from the sciatic nerve being angry.  


Another common issue that I see with sciatic symptoms is an imbalance of the bones of the sacrum, pelvic, and hips. This is less of a soft tissue issue (although they are very closely related) and also different from a true injury to the spinal column itself. This would be, for example, when the pelvic is chronically twisted, or the pelvis is hiked up on one side.  When we zoom in on this type of a pattern, then the space between one bone and another bone, which is the joint itself, the space between these bones is compromised and this is also the area where the sciatic nerve travels.  So, if the bones and joints are out of alignment it can have a negative impact on the sciatic nerve. 


What is Sciatica 


So, if there is an injury to the spinal column itself, this is something that is more serious and it can be risky to call this “sciatica” because it requires a different diagnostic protocol and a different type of treatment.  It can also be why many “sciatica” treatments don't work… because there may be something else going on. 


In my mind, I think of “true sciatica” as a negative impact on the sciatic nerve due to either an imbalance in the soft tissues, or an imbalance in the bones and joints (often it’s both of these, but can be more one or more the other) 


So, the first step to making your sciatica go away is to put on the investigative cap and try to get clear on what is really going on with your body. 


This is probably a good moment to mention that I am not a doctor.  I like to reiterate this, because I work with a lot of people in pain, but it does not mean that I am diagnosing your issues, especially in the context of a blog post.  This is for educational purposes only, based on my experience over nearly two decades of teaching yoga and pilates, being a personal trainer, dealing with my own injuries, and working with a client population that experiences these types of issues.  Nothing in this blog post is a replacement for a consultation with your doctor, along with other imaging, soft tissue work, physical therapy session, or guidance from other professionals, including one on one support from myself or another qualified personal trainer with experience in sciatica. 


Sciatica is not something to be too afraid of.  In my experience, a lot of times it really can be resolved with just the right mix of strength and mobility exercises, often in tandem with some soft tissue work from a physical therapist or bodyworker, possibly some adjustments from a skilled chiropractor. Sometimes it's a little more persnickety than others, but often it’s resolvable.



Solutions to Sciatica: 


Now that we've learned some of the science behind sciatica, let's explore practical ways to ease the painful symptoms and find lasting relief. One crucial strategy is to create space within your body, akin to clearing a path for traffic to flow smoothly. Targeted mobility exercises aimed at loosening tight muscles, reducing inflammation and rebalancing the alignment within your bones and joints can provide a welcome respite for the aggravated sciatic nerve. 


But it's not just about stretching – once we’ve created space and reduced the inflammation then it’s time to build strength and resilience to maintain proper alignment and reinforce this improved movement pattern. Building strength at the right time and in the right way is an important stage to keeping nagging sciatica at bay. Strong muscles act as your body's trusty allies, providing support and stability to the affected area and reducing the risk of further irritation. Incorporating strength-building exercises into your routine empowers your body to withstand daily stresses with resilience. Think of these exercises as movements that target the muscles around the lower back, buttocks, and legs, helping to improve stability and function.


Personalized Help for Sciatica:


Now, you might be wondering how to put all of this into action. That's where personalized assistance comes in. In my experience, one of the hardest parts about dealing with sciatica is that it is a very individual issue.  Imbalances in the bones and muscles can be different from one person to the next, but cause similar symptoms, so it’s not a one size fits all type of a solution. 


Here at Limber Arts I love helping people understand their unique bodies, putting genuine empowerment and knowledge back into your hands, so that you can get back in the driver's seat and feel confident in your ability to keep the sciatica at bay and what to do if it starts to flare up again. 


Schedule a free consultation today  I’m always happy to help discuss options and next steps, whether that’s helping you get connected with a good bodyworker or chiropractor, or coming into Limber Arts for some individual sessions. 


Conclusion:


In conclusion, while sciatica may present its challenges, it doesn't have to define your life. By understanding its root causes, implementing targeted solutions, and seeking personalized care, you can reclaim control over your health and well-being. So here's to embarking on your journey to sciatica relief – may it be filled with understanding, empowerment, and the freedom to live life on your terms.


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