Sciatica - a pain in the bum

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Sciatica is a painful and debilitating condition, and all too common. It is experienced as pain, tingling, numbness and weakness down the back of the leg and is caused by injury or pressure on the sciatic nerve, which is the longest nerve in the body.

It usually occurs on just one side and can get worse after standing or sitting, bending backwards, at nighttime and when sneezing, coughing or laughing. It often feels more painful after walking a short distance. If you suffer from sciatica, you are also likely to feel very tired and emotionally drained from the constant pain.

There are many different causes for the condition, including poor posture, which can shift the spine out of alignment, or pregnancy, where the pressure of the growing baby can press down on the nerve.

Alternatively, you may have a slipped disc with the herniation or bulge pressing on the nerve, or have sustained a pelvic injury or fracture.

It can also be caused by the piriformis, a narrow muscle found in the buttocks, becoming too tight or inflamed.

The sciatic nerve runs very close to this muscle and, in a minority of the population, runs right through it.

I see a lot of clients who have over-tightening of this muscle through exercise, or as the result of regularly driving long distances.

Massage may be very effective, and once the piriformis and other gluteal muscles are loosened off, the symptoms can decrease significantly.

It is important to find out the root cause before starting any treatment, so a trip to the GP is in order. Then the first course of action is to reduce the pain and inflammation.

Applying ice to the painful area for up to three days may be helpful, as well as reducing normal activity.

This can be followed by applying heat, which may be helpful if the surrounding muscles have gone into spasm.

Usual activities may be resumed slowly, but avoid heavy lifting or twisting for at least six weeks.

You may also be referred to a physiotherapist, or recommended to try a sports and remedial massage therapist.

These practitioners will be able to put you on a exercise programme to help alleviate the symptoms and prevent the problem from recurring.

Exercises may include stretching out the spine and neural flossing techniques.

It is important that you do these exercises correctly, and the physiotherapist or massage therapist will show you how.

If you choose to receive massage treatment, the practitioner may work on the surrounding muscles to release trigger points and break down adhesions in the fascia and underlying muscles.

Work can also be carried out to improve posture, which can relieve pressure on the nerve roots.

n Renuka’s next clinics are at U-Mix Centre, 17 Asline Road, S2 4UJ on Sunday, November 15 and Saturday, November 28. To book in for a treatment, get in touch with Affordable Community Massage via Facebook or email us at

Affordable Community Massage uses ‘pop-up’ clinics at venues in the community and at home to provide easy access to affordable therapeutic and deeper tissue massage.