Feb 222013

One of the major causes of sciatica pain is a chronically tight piriformis muscle. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body, and it controls many functions in the back of the leg, including pain sensation and muscle movement. Nerves are very delicate structures, and even a small amount of pressure on the delicate sciatic nerve can cause debilitating shooting pain down the back of the leg. As seen in the picture to the left, the sciatic nerve travels just below the piriformis muscle before it reaches the leg. When the piriformis muscle becomes tight, it can put pressure on the sciatic nerve resulting sciatica symptoms, termed piriformis syndrome.

Sciatica may result from several physical problems, including a herniated vertebral disc, spinal canal narrowing, impingement by tendons or muscles, and bursitis. Often times, when the sciatica pain is due to piriformis syndrome, the radiating leg pain will be accompanied by a deep, burning pain in the buttock. Because of the various possible factors contributing to sciatica pain, it is often beneficial to begin with a conservative approach of chiropractic adjustments and specific stretching.

One way to alleviate the pain caused by a tight piriformis muscle is to perform daily piriformis stretches. The following stretches should be performed twice a day for 30 seconds, or when experiencing the sciatica pain. While laying on your back, cross the affected leg over the unaffected leg and pull the unaffected knee toward your chest. When performed correctly, you should feel a deep stretch in the affected buttock, leg, and lower back. See photo for correct procedure.

Another stretch can be performed in a seated position by crossing the affected leg over the unaffected leg. Grab the affected knee and pull it toward the opposite shoulder. Again, the stretch should be felt in the buttock, lower back, and hip.

If you continue to experience the sciatica pain after several days of stretching, contact Wilderness Chiropractic Health and Wellness Center at 724-934-7788 for a complete evaluation.

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