Sciatica or Piriformis Syndrome

Written By: Dr. Evan Steinke, B.Sc, DC

Many of us have heard of sciatica (SI), a painful compression of the nerve running down the back of your leg, however, not many have heard of Piriformis Syndrome. To understand the difference it helps to first understand what the sciatic nerve is and where it travels.

The sciatic nerve is the thickest nerve in our body and is the result of several nerve roots from the lower back and sacrum coming together to form one larger nerve bundle. This bundle is formed around the level of our hip joint and runs the entirety of our leg, from glutes to feet. Nerves branch off to supply everything from the muscles of our legs to the skin and joints. Therefore, any irritation or compression to the sciatic nerve, or the nerve roots it is comprised of, can cause symptoms along its length. In fact, this is what sciatica is in reference to, pain and other symptoms that affect the nerve roots or sciatic nerve. Typically we think of disk herniations, degeneration, or joint narrowing that compresses and irritate the nerve roots that form the sciatic nerve as the cause of sciatica. However, this is not always the cause, in some cases, the sciatic nerve itself can be compressed by muscles which leads us to piriformis syndrome.

Piriformis syndrome gets its name from the piriformis muscle, a slender muscle running from the sacrum to the hip. The location of the muscle places it dead center in the gluteal region and also right over the top of the infamous sciatic nerve. As a result, tension and tightness or inflammation in the piriformis muscle can lead to compression and irritation of the sciatic nerve which in turn may cause sciatica. This could include pain in the gluteal region with possible radiation along the length of the nerve as it travels down the leg to the foot. It can also be characterized by feelings of numbness, tingling, or weakness in the leg and/or foot. Due to its position and function, you may feel increased irritation with sitting for a sustained period or with exercises such as squats.

In any case, if you are experiencing pain along the back of your leg or feelings of numbness or weakness it is best to see your practitioner and have the exact cause determined. From here an appropriate treatment and management plan can be implemented to help you.

If you are interested in booking an assessment call Active Sports Therapy today.

Dr. Evan Steinke, BSc. DC recently hosted a webinar where you can learn more about Sciatica and Piriformis Syndrome. You can check it out here.

*This blog is not intended to officially establish a physician-patient relationship, to replace the services of a trained physician, naturopathic doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor or otherwise to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Sciatica or Piriformis Syndrome

Active Release Therapy for Sciatica

By: Active Sports Therapy

Sciatica is a pain syndrome that is caused when the sciatic nerve is compressed by muscles located within the pelvis. The sciatic nerve branches from the lower back, through your hips and buttocks, and then it heads down each leg.  A person with symptoms of sciatica might experience the following:

The pain is often one-sided, and extends from one’s lower back down through the leg, and, in some cases a person may feel they symptoms all the way down to their toes. This usually is dependent on where exactly the sciatic nerve is being affected.

Causes of Sciatica

The main causes of sciatica are:

Treatments

At Active Sports Therapy, one treatment we use for sciatica is Active Release Therapy/Active Release Techniques®. To help with sciatica, ART can be helpful in that it can break up adhesions and scar tissue, as well as reduce any muscle spasms that are contributing to the problem. This will help to take the pressure off of the neve, allowing the symptoms to ease and often resolve. The practitioner will treat the soft tissue of the area by using a hands-on treatment that uses pressure and movements to work on the tendons, muscles, and fascia associated with your issue.

In addition to Active Release Therapy, acupuncture and cupping can also help relieve the symptoms of sciatica. For a deeper look into sciatica, please visit Dr. Corey Finan's blog, The Many Faces of Sciatica.

What You Can Do to Help With Your Sciatica Problem

  1. Maintain a healthy body weight.
  2. Take regular stretching breaks if you have an occupation that requires sitting. Stand up, move around, and employ some stretches that specifically target tight muscles that can lead to sciatic pain such as the piriformis.
  3. Exercise and working to build strong core and back muscles will improve your posture and in turn allow your body to move and sit in a more proper way, taking some of the pressure off of the sciatic nerve.
  4. Use ice and heat as needed. Alternating ice and heat can help bring some relief to sciatica sufferers. Remember that ice is anti-inflammatory and heat provides relaxation and increased blood flow. You will need both to combat this pain as opposed to just heat alone.
  5. Try laying on your back on the floor with a pillow under your knees. The floor is better than laying in a soft bed because of the support that it will provide.

Please give us a call if you are looking for help with your sciatica at 403-278-1405. Our team will be happy to setup an appointment for you. The earlier you start treatment, the sooner you’ll see results!

*This blog is not intended to officially establish a physician-patient relationship, to replace the services of a trained physician, naturopathic doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor or otherwise to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.