Ah the mighty sciatica, a sometimes lovely pain that can come on for no other reason other than “Hey, why not! There’s nothing better to do“. I’m not going to do one of those “rest, painkillers and chiropractor” articles as I remember reading each and every one of them thinking “and this fucking helps me how?“. I’m not saying don’t read them or heed their advice, but I am a proactive kind of person and if I can be actively doing something to fix a problem, I will.
There are a few extremes to sciatica ranging from a constant annoyance that ruins your life because you can’t think about anything but how sore your back or butt is, right up to not even being able to put one foot to the floor without screaming in agonizing pain, and in some rare cases… both legs can have the symptoms, I cannot even comprehend how painful that would be.
Remember, I am not an expert, and if this is your first experience with sciatica then getting a professionals opinion is a good idea to make sure there is nothing structurally wrong, but, chances are if you are reading this you are a long term challenger of the mighty sciatica and you’re getting pretty fed up with it!
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES?
A lot of terms like degenerative disc disease, nerves being compressed, protrusions and slips can be thrown about and they sound scary, but you really need to constantly remind yourself that pain it goes away eventually. The body heals and adapts all the time, one of the major realisations I had when studying was that if someone can be in a car accident and have their spine smashed to bits and be fine, then how is a “wee bit of nerve pain” not able to be helped?
(Super Secret Sciatica Tip 1: Belittling pain is a good place to start, attitude and the way you think about your pain is your first step.)
So how about these:
Reason 1: you’re hips are subtly not aligned, so your spine or nerves are being pissed off on one side because of compression.
Reason 2: your muscles are overly dominant to one side so that side is either too tight and causing pain or the other side feels weak and unsafe so it’s causing pain.
There may be something wrong with your structure, or you may have internal damage but you can’t change that. If you focus on fixing Reason 1 and 2 you may get rid of the symptoms anyway, so why worry?
(Super Secret Sciatica Tip 2: Getting stressed about things you can’t change just makes pain worse.)
Hit this test to start getting some body awareness:
If you find all your weight to one side or even visually notice that one hip is higher than the other then that could be the cause.
WHAT ABOUT THE PHYSIOTHERAPIST/CHIROPRACTOR?
A click can provide relief temporarily and if it is a recent injury and you’ve only just had the knock that could be all you need. However if you have been suffering for a long time then your muscles are pulling your skeleton and that is MUCH harder to fight against, any realignment could be redundant by the time you get back to your car. A good physiotherapist they will look at your ENTIRE body and not just your back or where the pain is, they will be able to do a good job of getting the symptoms to ease of so that (and this is the key thing) YOU CAN GET BACK TO MOVING! The issue with getting external help is you only have maybe 30 minutes to an hour with this person, at the most once a week… what about the other 167 hours?
SO WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO?
You need to check how your hips feel yourself. In the video below, I am moving around in a position called the 90/90: one hip is in external rotation and the other is in internal rotation. You don’t need to know the names of muscles or any fancy terms to be able to do this, just sit on the floor and see if you can replicate it. While in this position sit up as tall as you can and see if you can take your hands off the ground and rotate your body side to side unsupported. Does it feel more challenging on one side than the other? If yes, then this could be your problem!
(Super Secret Sciatica Tip 3: Get excited when you find an imbalance or a “problem” – this means you can actively work on fixing it)
You’ll probably notice I was doing quite a few different things in the video, quite literally I am moving and testing what different things feel like side to side:
I was seeing how far I could get my legs apart in the position, squeezing my butt as hard as possible for 15-20 seconds in each position then relaxing as much as possible, lifting the legs up and trying to maintain the torso position, bending and straightening the legs to see how my hips react, putting pressure into the floor with either my knee or foot to create tension…. I was playing, I was testing, I was getting curious and I was educating myself.
(Super Secret Sciatica Tip 4: The more you know about your pain and it’s triggers the more power you have)
So here it is, my advice: do that for one solid hour!
Not 5 minutes and say, “that’s quite hard that”. Not a few reps each side and say “I don’t notice any difference”. Sit in that position changing sides for… ahem “ONE SOLID FULL HOUR” while paying attention to what you are doing, see how many cramps you can get, notice what is different from side to side, and keep doing big deep relaxed breaths the entire hour, yes, that’s right, HOUR! FULL HOUR!!!!
These partners are pushing back into each other with the rear foot.
See how you feel after that hour and take a note of what you noticed, do you feel like you can move better now? You may feel like you are aggravating things more at the start and if that’s the case don’t push things too far, but from personal experience getting past that and getting moving ALWAYS brings me relief, even if I have to cry for a few minutes at the start in pain.
(Super Secret Sciatica Tip 5: Video yourself and take notes. Sometimes progress seems slow, or nonexistent – you need to constantly remind yourself of your improvements)
Don’t let back pain rule your life. If you want to make a lasting change in your hips, do it every damn day! When your symptoms start to ease you won’t need to do it as often or for as long, but don’t forget to continue to do it to keep symptoms at bay.