Recently I read an article about a new medical technique that addresses sciatic pain. The woman in the article – a hairdresser – was overjoyed that, through surgery, she was able to get relief from her sciatica. I’m happy to know that some people can be helped through medical intervention, but the problem still remained: there was no guarantee that her pain wouldn’t return; as is common with many medical approaches to functional problems such as sciatica, the patient never really found out how she had created her sciatica. Without addressing the root cause of her pain – a chronically tight buttock muscle – her pain will most likely return.
Sciatica pain occurs when the sciatic nerve, which runs through the buttock and down the leg, is compressed by the buttock muscle or tight back muscles on one side. Doctors will inject medication to either deaden the nerve or relieve the compression, rather than treat what is causing the pain to begin with. If you become aware of your pattern of movement that is causing your muscles to become contracted, then you can change your movement and get rid of the pain.
So if your sciatic nerve is being pinched by a tight buttock muscle (the piriformis) what is causing the muscle to contract? Sciatica is a full body pattern of muscle dysfunction that develops in response to habituation of the Trauma Reflex, which causes one to walk with a painful, uneven gait. This can also cause knee pain.
Whatever we do consistently becomes a habit at the level of our brain and nervous system.
If we stand with a baby on our hip, our waist muscles learn to stay tight on one side to make a perch for the baby. If we have injured ourselves and use crutches to get around, one side of the waist becomes tight to protect the injured limb. These are examples of adaptation to stress that cause our muscles to accumulate more and more muscle tension.
The only way a muscle contracts is if the brain, the command center of the muscles, sends it a signal to contract.
If the message to contract is constant, then the muscle learns to stay tight, even when you’re sleeping. Add to that tight back muscles, and you have a textbook recipe for sciatica: tight back muscles and one side of the waist/hips that are tighter than the other side.
Sciatic pain can be reversed through Somatic sciatica exercises and sensory motor retraining.
If you have sciatica, take a moment to notice how you move. Is one hip higher than the other? Are your back muscles contracted constantly? Do you walk with an uneven gait? Is one knee painful when you walk? Do you stand with more weight on one leg than the other? Would you like to learn to regain balance and control in the center of your body so the hips, back and waist muscles can relax and take pressure off that sciatic nerve?
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, click here for a few Hanna Somatic Exercises; they are perfect for improving awareness of one’s movement, and restoring full brain control of the muscles that cause sciatica. Hanna Somatic Education can teach you to rid yourself of sciatic pain for the long term and help you regain control of your body… without surgery.