It all started with a pain in the butt. Then it progressed to a burning sensation down my hamstring when I was sitting. Finally, I was getting a tingling sensation along the top of the foot – but only on the left side of my body…strange!?
After asking doctor Google and making a trip to the physio, it appeared my sciatic nerve was giving me a bit of grief. The Physio thought that an old lower back injury (herniated disk at L4-5) coupled with a tight piriformis from current running training was no doubt the cause to this radiating pain on my left side.
At first, I breathed a sigh of relief that it wasn’t a race haltering soft tissue injury, but then I was put to task with a series of exercises to sooth my crank nerve and ensure the training remained on track.
Here’s what I did:
[Please note: Keep in mind that not all glute and hamstring pain is sciatica related. This is my personal journey and my experience may help you. If you’re experiencing any pain, it’s best to have it evaluated by a physiotherapist, and if the pain persists and is intolerable, it’s time to see the doctor.]
What is sciatica?
The sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in the human body; it runs from each side of the lower spine, through deep in the buttock, into the back of the thigh and all the way down to the foot.
Any type of pain, discomfort or neurological symptoms that are felt along the sciatic nerve is referred to as sciatica.
What causes sciatic pain?
- Herniated Disc – Bulging of the intervertebral disc that cushions the vertebrae
- Piriformis Syndrome – When the piriformis muscle becomes tight and swollen it puts pressure on the sciatic nerve.
- Bony Growths (Osteophytes) – Bone spur or growth on the edge of a joint which may become painful after rubbing on nearby bone or nerves
What does sciatic pain feel like?
The pain can be present anywhere along the nerve path.
The pain can vary widely, from a mild ache to a burning sensation or excruciating pain. Sometimes it can feel like a sharp jolt or electric shock.
How can you fix it?
- Acupuncture, dry needling and foam rolling
By applying pressure to trigger points and tight muscles through massage, foam rolling or dry needling (using acupuncture needles into trigger points) tension can be released and therefore pain and pressure reduced on the sciatic nerve. This is helpful for these deep and hard to target muscles like the piriformis.
Or try using a firm massage ball on the glutes!
2. Gentle stretching
Try stretches that target the muscles of the lower back, glute and hamstrings. Releasing tight muscles helps the nerve flow more freely. Try holding stretches for 1-2mins.
Lower back stretch
Glute and piriformis stretch
Seated Hamstring Stretch
3. Nerve flossing
A type of gentle movement that soothes irritated nerves and allows them to glide and flow. Bend one knee whilst straightening the other leg, keep alternating, moving slowly and walking out the legs.
Combine the stretching, foam rolling and gentle movement to keep the tissues supple and nerves flowing freely, and if the pain persists, time to see your health practitioner.
Want more? Download my comprehensive ebook ‘Stretching & Yoga – A guide for the everyday athlete’!