Sciatica treatment usually involves pain killers or epidural injections. The focus is on relieving the pain to let the body sort itself out. And sciatica sufferers know all about pain. It’s excruciating. It can keep you awake at night. Or keep you down on the floor all day, afraid to move for fear of pain, #incapable of even the most basic of tasks.
Sciatica sufferers, and I was once one myself, know all about pain. Many sufferers have done a fair deal of investigation into the anatomy of the sciatic nerve. They know that when it’s compressed by muscles or disks, it can cause pain.
But after you have been to see a doctor to rule out serious underlying issues, the most important question you can ask, the question that will help you get relief from the pain and never get it again, is this:
Why does the sciatic nerve get compressed in the first place?
Answering this question with, “a bulging disk”, which is the most common cause for sciatica, only raises another question: Why would the disk bulge? Before I answer that, let’s just quickly go over the anatomy again.
Why sciatica treatment often fails to address the cause
At its thickest point, the sciatic nerve is the thickest nerve in your body. It can be as thick as your baby finger. In addition to this, it has multiple connections, each of which can easily get compressed or pinched by the surrounding bone, disks and tissue.
The sciatic nerve has many vulnerable points from the L4 vertebrae right down to the coccyx, where it’s exposed between the vertebrae in the column as shown here:
Our spine, including the vertebral disks, is a living, moveable, organic thing. It can lengthen, it can compress, and it can flex, all depending on what we’re doing. When we move unnaturally, we add tensions, strains and compression to our body. This alone is enough to cause pain; make a tight fist for five minutes and see how that feels — it hurts just as much when we tighten our lower back muscles. But while tension can hurt us in and of itself, it can do more than that to our structure.
Treating sciatica by releasing tension
Clenched muscles compress our spine. Muscle tension can squeeze the nerve. Or, more commonly, put so much force on the disks that they bulge, which then presses on the sciatic nerve.
The nerve also passes between two vertebrae in at least two locations, so if there’s excess tension in the body, those vertebrae are squeezed closer together by muscle tension, increasing the chance of the nerve being pinched between muscle and bone.
There are many ways in which tension can cause sciatica.
Bulging disks don’t usually just come out of nowhere. Poor habits, such as moving unnaturally or with excess effort, can put massive forces on localised areas. When we move unnaturally and out of balance, it adds forces to your body and creates muscle tension, and this excess force is what herniates disks, which then press the nerves causing pain.
Sciatica treatments often focus on treating the symptoms of sciatica, i.e. the pain, without addressing the underlying cause — our movement habits.
Sciatica treatment that addresses the underlying cause.
When you’re considering the cause of sciatica, it’s not merely a pinched nerve. That’s usually just an effect… I address the way that you move, identifying how postural tension and poor movement habits can indirectly pinch the nerve.
People often recommend core strength exercises as a possible treatment for sciatica, but if anything this will just add more tension on the muscles of your system and likely exasperate the issue by further compressing the spine. It just doesn’t make sense…
The other common cause of sciatica is poor movement habits. It’s common in western cultures for people to “bend from the waist”. However, there is no real joint in the waist. Many people bend in the spine instead of their hip joints. Our robust, flexible spine can put up with abuse for years — but it is not a joint. When we bend from our spine instead of our joints, muscles tense and the disks can bulge, eventually leading to sciatica.
Book a session for sciatica
It’s possible to release tension in your body by learning to move more naturally. I am a teacher of the Alexander Technique and I use this, along with ‘LearningMethods’, to teach people how to ‘let go’ fully of any unnatural muscle holding patterns or imbalances, to relieve pain.
To find out if I can help you, or to book a consultation, please contact Andrew on 087-9387302. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: You should always seek medical advice if you feel back pain to rule out serious underlying issues. Up to 1-2% of sciatica cases can be caused by serious underlying issues which require medical attention. However, if your doctor has ruled out any serious underlying cause of the back pain, it’s highly likely that the cause is muscular tension or poor movement habits.