Saturday, October 20, 2012

Injuries You Can Heal: Sciatica

You guys said you wanted lifestyle tips, so this one is going to be based on my own experience with physical therapy, the dance kinesiologist in my department, and my experience with alternative healing. I'm not a professional and I don't pretend to be, so please take my advice with a grain of salt. This blog post is no substitute for a doctor's visit if you're really in pain! See my first post on feet.

The Biology
Sciatica describes a pain in the back of the leg, usually starting in the middle of the butt cheek and running down the length of the leg. It is caused due to irritation, inflammation, or pinching of the sciatic nerve.
Photo Credit
Usually, the problem with sciatica in dancers is the piriformis muscle (pictured below). Amongst the majority of the population, the sciatic nerve runs through the piriformis muscle, which is one of your deep turnout muscles. Obviously, with all of the turning out that dancers do, the piriformis is commonly very tight. When it gets too tight, it can clamp down on the sciatic nerve, giving you sciatica.
Photo Credit

The problem: Pinched/inflamed sciatic nerve.

What it feels like: Pain starting in the middle of your butt and running down the length of your leg. The pain will be shooting, stabbing, and/or burning.

The solution: A pinky ball and some stretching. The pigeon stretch is a common piriformis stretch - the more you move your leg into a more extended attitude, the more stretch you will feel. If you have a pinky ball, lie flat on your back. Place a pinky ball under your tailbone and roll sideways on it until the pinky ball is directly to the left or right (depending on which sciatic nerve is inflamed) of the tailbone. You'll feel a lovely searing pain. Relax into the ball. If your leg starts to tingle and go numb, the pinky ball is digging into an artery - just roll around on the ball with tiny, slow movements until you find a spot that doesn't make your leg go numb and is perfectly cradling the muscle.

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