In our first report about sciatica, you learned that there are a variety of causes for pain radiating down the leg.  In Part 2, we explore some of these root causes.

Personal trainers try to treat all forms of sciatica the same way.  This has a very limited success rate; and even then, the success is often short-term. The major symptom of sciatica is a shooting, intense pain down the leg and sometimes the buttocks.

Trauma – Trauma is a cause of many cases of sciatica.  In most cases, you will know when this happens.  It could come from a motorcycle accident, a fall, or some type of sports accident.  Accidents such as these can cause a bone to break or fragment and come in contact with the nerve or another structure that compresses the nerve.  Obviously any structure that puts more pressure on the nerve has the opportunity to damage or irritate it in some way.  If you have experienced some type of trauma, this is not something a personal trainer can fix.  You need to see your physician or surgeon to take care of the problem.  Exercise can do a lot of things, but it cannot repair the bones after an accident.
Piriformis Syndrome – Piriformis syndrome is pretty common, and personally, I think most personal trainers label all forms of sciatica “piriformis syndrome”.  There are a lot of people that suffer from this condition.  We have a more sedentary lifestyle due to our office jobs and increased television watching over the years.  As you sit down, your piriformis does tighten up.  Because of it’s close proximity to the sciatic nerve, it can cause sciatica.  In cases where the piriformis muscle is only spasming, some basic piriformis stretches and an overall spinal stabilization program will relieve the problem.  While stretching out this muscle will help most people feel better, it’s important to make sure this is the actual root of the problem if you are suffering from back pain.  There are some cases in which the sciatic nerve actually pierces the sciatic nerve.  In cases where it pierces the piriformis, this is an example of genetic condition that can only be corrected with surgery.  There are a lot of things that can create temporary relief from back pain, but you want to make sure you are doing things that will be a permanent solution.  Because the piriformis is a muscle, sometimes it is hard to diagnose piriformis syndrome.  it won’t show up in X-Rays or MRI’s.  However, a physician should be able to diagnose it, if it is the problem.  A simple fitness program can help you get relief and keep you pain free in the future.  However, because the piriformis is involved in hip rotation, some exercises will actually make it feel worse.

Tumors/Cancer – Tumors can develop and cause sciatic pain as well.  As the mass develops it can press on structures in the area and create compression.  I have to admit that I’ve never had a client that has suffered from a tumor in the spine, it is still possible (as this x-ray demonstrates).  Treatment for this condition will obviously come from the physician.  This isn’t something that exercise will directly effect.  Situations like this create nerve compression, and I can imagine a substantial amount of pain.

Dealing with sciatica isn’t always easy and every case should be treated individually.  There isn’t a program that fixes all forms of sciatica.  If you meet with a fitness professional/personal trainer and tell them you have sciatica, they should have enough wisdom to ask you the cause of your sciatica (or at least run you through a couple of tests to understand more about the cause of your symptoms).  Sciatica is not the condition, it is the symptom of the problem.

If you are suffering from sciatica and need help with a well structured fitness program, schedule a complimentary consultation with us.  We will be glad to design an individualized program that will do more than just give you a temporary fix.  If we find that we should not treat you, we will refer you to someone who can help you.

If you suffer from back pain, and would like to learn more about how exercise affects your back pain, subscribe to our special report about back pain.