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Unpacking the Mystery of Sciatica: How to Diagnose and Treat with Functional Solutions

I’m not a doctor and this is not medical advice. If you’ve had an accident, go see a doctor.

Sciatica is when the nerve roots along the spinal cord have increased sensitivity and pain radiates down the sciatic nerve to your buttocks, leg, or foot. It is commonly caused by a bulging or herniated disc.

  • Lie on your back with your legs straight and raise one leg at a time. Pain while lifting the leg with pain symptoms usually indicates sciatica.

  • Perform the slump test by rounding your spine as you flex your toes up towards your shins to stretch your nerves.

If you suspect sciatica, these guidelines can help:

  • Avoid further nerve stretching or irritation.

  • Attempt to lie on your stomach to find a pain-free position. You can also place a pillow underneath your stomach for more comfort.

  • Stop rounding your back when bending forward or stretching and instead maintain a neutral spine posture to allow for recovery and to decrease symptoms.

  • Build glute awareness and coordination with hip thrusts.

  • Some people will benefit by practicing nerve flossing where you “glide” them like you would floss a tooth back and forth without stretching the nerve. If this makes your symptoms worse, stop immediately and rest until symptoms decrease. You can try again with less intensity or seek professional help.

Each test provides insight into what might be causing your pain and this is where I would recommend starting if you suspect you have sciatica. If you did not recognize pain with the straight leg raise or slump test, it's possible something else is causing your pain like piriformis syndrome, posture or movement dysfunction, joint imbalance, or trigger points. Further blog posts will elaborate on other potential causes. If you have questions leave them down below and I'll answer them! - Tom


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