Continuing on my posts about the rear, today we are going to discuss something that happens when you don’t pay attention to yours.
As always, I’m a massage practitioner, not a doctor. These are “opinions” from my professional experience and should be read with the scrutiny of an eighth grade principal faced with a note from home. Onwards.
Sciatica is a word that gets used, misused, and misunderstood quite frequently. Before I learned about the body, I associated Sciatica with old age (along with bursitis and bad dancing among other things.) I would always hear it in the context of a person complaining about how “getting old is not fun, kid,” and assumed it was just some mystery ache that happened over 40 for no other reason than you were over 40 (I hear that’s a decent reason still from some.) So imagine my surprise when I developed Sciatica at 26.
First, what the heck is Sciatica? Quote grabbed from mayoclinic.org “Sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve — which branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg.” What I felt was a burning pain from my buttocks to my pinky toe on my right side. It was not pleasant. Sciatica is generally caused by a compression of the spinal cord by some bony structure/cartilage (vertebrae, sacrum, bulging disc in my case) in the spine and your doctor will need to help you with that. I found out, though, not only did I have Sciatica, I ALSO had Pseudo-Sciatica.
Now, Pseudo-Sciatica sounds all fake and less serious, but I can totally tell you it’s not. It actually does and feels the exact same. The only difference is cause. Pseudo-Sciatica is caused not by a bony structure, but by muscle, and the nerve is still compressed. The Sciatic nerve exits at the base of the spine and heads down to your toes, but it has to pass through muscle to get there. Specifically, Piriformis.
See the big red thing? That’s piriformis, a muscle deep in your hip, underneath your gluteal muscles. It rotates the hip joint laterally (knee out.) The thick yellow thing? Thats the sciatic nerve, the major nerve that runs all the way down to your toes. Now imagine if you let that muscle get really really REALLY tight. So much fun, right? Right. What does it take to make this muscle really really really tight? I’ll give you a hint.
Piriformis syndrome is what happens when that muscle gets really tight. It is also commonly referred to as “truck driver’s syndrome.” What do truck drivers do for long periods of time? They sit. So all you need to experience a world of hurt in your leg is sit (for a long time, regularly). It’s not some crazy injury, like falling down or crashing your car. It is the simple act of putting this muscle in a shortened position for an extended period of time. Muscles don’t like to do that. They like to move.
So if you sit at a computer for a living, or drive a lot (in my case) you definitely want to get your glutes worked on. Any massage practitioner worth their license knows this muscle backwards and forwards and knows how to help. Again, however, if you have “true” Sciatica (I really hate the names of these), you’ll need to see a doctor as the treatment is out of our hands.
You can clearly see now that Sciatica/Pseudo-Sciatica is not an age-related disease, but one that comes with improperly maintained bodies. Now if only I knew some techniques that would help maintain such a thing…
*cough* Strain Counterstrain *cough*
*cough* Swedish/Deep Tissue *cough*
*cough* Sports *cough*
*coughs a lot more cough*
I’ve got to get that cough checked.
Have a lovely day, and as always, be well,
Meredith Lynch, RMP