How I Managed my Sciatica

The most persistent injury I’ve experienced was a true pain in the butt.

If you’re familiar with piriformis, you know I’m not being cheeky. It’s literally a pain in the butt.



Here’s how I managed to take control of this issue.

What is it?

Piriformis Syndrome is when the sciatic nerve runs through the piriformis muscle instead of around it, and is compressed (agitated) by the muscle.

This discomfort will often be felt in the glutes of high hamstring. Symptoms include a pain that’s typically only on one side of the body. They can run from the lower back all the way down the leg. For me it was a high hamstring slightly pins-&-needles discomfort.

The sciatic nerve begins at the base of the spine and travels down the leg before branching out and can cause tingling, numbness, or pain all throughout this area.

When did I experience it?

In my case, piriformis pain would show itself during two instances

  1. During longer (hour plus) car drives without cruise control, such as curvy rmountain roads. The constant pushing and releasing on the gas pedal really aggravated the nerve.
  2. During the final bit of a long hard run.

How did I solve mine?

Two methods were used, and both involve a little purple ball.

The first is that I would place a small tennis ball sized ball under my high hammy when driving or sitting for a long time.

Second, I would religiously perform the below exercise 1-2 times a day.

Where am I now?

Now, I can’t even remember the last time I experienced this discomfort during a run.

I still have to sit on my little purple ball if I know I’m driving without cruise control for an extended period of time. There are a couple known chairs at local coffee shops that I either avoid or have to use the ball (which I keep in my bag) because for some reason they put me in a position that agitates my sciatic nerve.

Currently I don’t suppose I would consider myself “cured” because I do experience it very rarely, however I’d consider myself over this issue, since I cannot remember the last time I felt this pain!

More Reading:

How to Get a Deep Piriformis Stretch | Carly Fraser | “It is important to note, too, that over-stretching can actually make the condition worse. Light, gentle stretching is best. “No pain, no gain” does NOT apply here. I over-stretched my piriformis and that’s what made it inflamed for 1-2 years (because I was still doing yoga daily, and over-doing it in stretches).”

Kyle

Kyle is a running coach who works with people all over the world to help them run more consistently & be resilient to injury.

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Eugene - October 6, 2017

How did you manage to get the piriformis syndrome? I was told I got mine because of extremely weak glutes (because of long time sedentary life, this is called “gluteal amnesia”). They were so weak I was completely unable to squeeze ass cheeks during, e.g., a plank. So, my weak piriformis and gluteus medius got chronically spasmed trying stabilize the pelvis during runs and compressed the sciatic nerve. I thought piriformis syndrome is only a thing for only sedentary people like myself. Now I’m wondering what can cause this for the long time active people doing strengthening workouts regularly as well?

Reply
    Kyle - October 6, 2017

    Thanks for the comment! I’ve no idea how exactly it developed. Your explanation of your experience is quite interesting! Even for active people, the sciatic nerve (which runs along the piriformis muscle) can become compressed from sitting on it. I believe the sciatic nerve may run fully or partially through the muscle in some cases, which could also cause compress issues, I believe.

    Reply
Scotty - February 25, 2016

Hi Kyle,

It seems that this article leads to a 404 page when clicking “see the rest here”? I did read the article before this problem and was going to follow the videos, but unfortunately I can’t now.

While I’m here, I was just wondering whether I could ask for your opinion please? I’ve had trouble for the last four years and symptoms have developed into other areas of my body as time has progressed. Previous to this, I was very fit, playing soccer and running a fair amount. I’m now 26 and in constant pain throughout the day (and sometimes night).

I don’t recall suffering any trauma as such, the only thing I can think of is feeling a tear in my right hamstring while playing soccer; the pain was sickening at the time. It seemed to recover fine (or so I thought), then a month or two down the line I felt an issue near the area of my right SI joint.

This developed into an irritating feeling down my hamstring while sitting which eventually spread into the groove of my shin. Initially, it would take a while to feel these symptoms but that time reduced more and more until sitting down for even a minute brings on the pain. The final symptom has been a tightness into my lattisimus dorsi muscle; it will tighten from sitting and even laying in bed these days. When it comes to stretching this muscle, it will actually make a clicking noise, it doesn’t feel like bone though.

Please note that all above is on the right side, the left side feels perfectly fine.

I was just wondering whether anything springs to mind, with regards to what it could be? I can provide more ‘clues’ but I didn’t want to overwhelm you. I’d really appreciate any help you could provide, I’m feeling more and more like an old man and I’m becoming depressed with it as a result.

Thanks Kyle, all the best.

Reply
    Kyle - February 26, 2016

    Hey Scotty!

    My bad about the URL, it will post here soon: http://skorarunning.com/blog/piriformis-sciatica/

    You can find the videos here https://www.youtube.com/embed/VQtwaPoK-UM and here https://www.youtube.com/embed/KU3bDl2R2a8

    The sciatic nerve travels all the way down your leg, so it’s possible that it has simply developed over time into new areas of pain.

    Have you ever had the leg actually looked at or observed my a healthcare professional? A doctor could order some scans or a PT could observe your movement patterns.

    Reply
      Scotty - February 26, 2016

      Hi Kyle,

      Thank you so much for sending me the video links and getting back to me, it’s greatly appreciated.

      I’ve had various specialists look at me but nobody has been able to give a solid diagnosis, it’s all been a bit of a mystery. My doctor has finally organised a MRI scan so hopefully that reveals something.

      I was just curious whether something might come to your mind but I understand it’s a very tricky task going purely by what I’ve written above.

      Thanks again for the help, I’ll get started on the videos and wait patiently for the scan 🙂

      Reply
Jeff - January 21, 2016

Hi Kyle, thanks for sharing your information. So I have had what’s sounds to be a very similar problem for about the last five years. It all started when I tweaked my hamstring playing frisbee and that morphed into a strain which a bad physical therapist made worse, I fly helicopters for a living and the constant sitting and vibration a toll on my hips and spine. My hamstring will ache as soon as I sit down. If I sit down for any longer than 30 min or if the chair is bad, the pain will become unbearable. I stretch every morning and evening and also use a lacrosse ball to massage my butt. I also use the lacrosse ball in the car anytime I drive. I am glad to see a success story, it gives me some hope. I plan on trying these techniques and hopefully will have some better results than what I have been having.

How many times a day and for how long would you do the techniques discussed in the videos?
-Jeff

Reply
    Kyle - January 23, 2016

    Hey Jeff, I’d typically do it at least once a day for about 5 minutes total massage time. Maybe twice or three times if I got around to the extra sessions.

    Definitely try a small ball under the high hammy when sitting. I literally carry one in my bookbag because there are some chairs in coffee shops that will wreck my high hammy/glute after 10 minutes of sitting. Luckily this is only 1/20 chairs. And like I think I mentioned in the article, the ball helps when driving a non-cruise control Mustang for a long period.

    Reply
Gonzo - January 14, 2016

I am just a little desperate looking for a solution to sciatica pain. My lovely wife has 3 weeks fighting the pain every night, and nothing seems to help. Can you please cover a little more about sciatica stretches.

Thanks.

Reply
    Kyle - January 14, 2016

    Hi Gonzo, this is the only stretch for that area that I’ve ever done and ever needed to do. It’ has been 99% issue free ever since the time a few years back before I started performing this neural flossing technique. Kyle

    Reply
Bob - October 15, 2015

Just came across your blog, and i will try these techniques. Mine is literally a pain in the butt! I am not a runner, but a high level table tennis player and I am assuming that mine is coming from both lateral movement, and rotation. It is on the right side which is my dominant side when I play. Hope you are well, and thanks again.

Reply
Paul S. - September 4, 2015

I “was” a runner until I started getting foot pain which I later realized was sciatic nerve impingement somewhere in my low back or glute region. Pain in the buttock, but mostly non-stop pain throughout my foot. After 9 months, I am still trying to figure out how to to fix this I am glad I found your post. I will try some of these things. I just got a standing desk this week. I’m finding sitting all day at work has been the silent killer, not the running. I am guessing that strengthening, stretching, and standing may help me recover. Who knows?

Reply
    Kyle - September 4, 2015

    Please let me know if the neural flossing with the ball helps at all! Even now a year + after writing this post, I’m still pain free unless I sit in a car for too long.

    Reply
      Paul S. - September 5, 2015

      How long did it take for you to work it out? It sounds like your pain was hamstrings. Mine is foot. So I guess it depends where the pinch occurs. How did you have lower back pain from piriformis issues?

      Reply
        Kyle - October 10, 2015

        How long…oh maybe over the course of a month it diminished. No lower back pain, it was exclusively hamstring/glute.

        Reply
JB - April 8, 2015

I have quite a bit of pain in the glute / high ham area. While the ball helps, the pain comes back pretty quickly when I start running again. I have been told alot of my problems are due to the fact that my hips are externally rotated and that I need to do exercises to strengthen the muscles around the hip to ‘counter-balance’ my hips being too externally rotated…..

any ideas / suggestions?

Reply
    Kyle - April 8, 2015

    Check out Kinetic Revolution’s website and their strength routines. They have a lot of great progressive hip and leg routines (I do them, myself).

    Reply
Michael whalon - June 26, 2014

How much did the flossing initially hurt? And also, did it agitate the pain at first? Get worse before it got better? Piriformis syndrome sucks, I’ve had it for 9 months now

Reply
    Kyle - June 26, 2014

    Hey Michael! If using a ball under the hamstring/glute area, you kind of have to seek out the area that hurts by awkwardly moving your glute around on top of the ball. When you find that “sweet spot” you’ll know it and there is some discomfort if you have the ball putting pressure on a point and you’re flossing at the same time.

    It’s thankfully been months since I’ve had any real high hammy pain, the real tests will be this summer when I start doing long hard runs again, which was the only time I generally had the pain while running. I’ve actually stopped using the standing desk (to maximize my recovery by sitting) and have not had any pain in a very long time. I may recall the flossing giving me some glute/hamstring pain for a short period of time after a long flossing session, but generally while not flossing it did not really hurt.

    Reply
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