Let’s explore pain going down your leg! Is it a nerve, a muscle? Is it in the leg or coming from somewhere else? Why do you have it? What can you do to stop it and more importantly what to do to stop it from coming back!! This blog is going to dissect this so you can answer all of those questions and to bring clarity.
Let’s first say that MOST pains going down the leg are NOT Sciatica. I will put a video I did at the bottom of this blog so you can understand the difference but let’s say that Sciatica is the irritation of the Sciatic nerve which goes straight in the middle of the gluts, thigh, leg and to the ankle. If your pain does not go down to the ankle and is not in the middle of the back of the leg, you do NOT have Sciatica.
In the life of my practice, I have hardly seen a true case of Sciatica. So what is it then? It is more than likely Piriformis Syndrome, where the muscle piriformis which connects the sacrum to the back of the hip socket runs.
What causes the leg pain?
When too much sitting, and believe it or not, when too much driving with the left leg bent and rotated out, this muscles goes to the hyper mode. Misalignment of the spine, leading to Pelvis rotation and side bending also can lead to the over drive of the smaller gluts called Gluteus medium and minimum.
These muscles roles is not so much extension of the leg and back as it is to stabilize the pelvis from swaying back and forth. When they over work, they get tired and that leads to lack of stabilization of the pelvis when walking, sitting, standing.
When packed with trigger points (caused as a result of voluntary or involuntary work by a muscle), there is radiation to other parts of the body. That is where the name Trigger point comes from–> they trigger point else where.
While depending on the location, the shooting of pain due to trigger points varies, when they are present in the piriformis, gluteus minimum and medium, they can shoot pain to the gluts, off to the outside part of the pelvis and down the outside-back part of the thigh. They hardly shoot pain all the way down to the leg BUT if pressed ‘correctly’ it is possible to make them do just that! As you see, this type of pain down the leg is NOT from nerves and it is coming from your gluts and not the actual leg.
Just to add a little bit more on Trigger points, they are lactic acid build up. When muscles work, they need more oxygen to perform. In athletes, the actual sport demands more on the muscles but in most people, sitting too much as an example overuses certain muscles which biochemically is similar to those muscles being used in a sport.
When not enough Oxygen is present, there is more Carbon Dioxide. Too much carbon dioxide changes the Ph of the area and leads to Lactic Acid presence.
Too much sitting, too much driving and overall, imbalance in the pelvis and lower back which take away the designed format for the muscles, tendons and bones to be.
Solution to Pain
The answer to most complicated problems is actually pretty simple. What I always encourage my patients to do is to look for their health answers in how nature intended ‘something’ to be. Bring it as close to the function that nature had in mind and you will be in a much better shape!! We, human beings, are designed to move around; sitting for an extended length of time, starring at our digital devices is far from that.
Take mini breaks, get up every 50-55 minutes to drink water, go to the bathroom, stretch your arms out (see this video to know what exactly I mean) and activate the brain. I did a blog here on how your brain impacts your posture and how to activate it to your advantage).
Stretch the muscles that you use the most when sitting but for the purpose of this blog I will only mention the muscles that have to do with the pain down the leg. They are the Piriformis (see the video below), the gluteus medius and minimus (clams), hamstring ( I am posting a video on this on my youtube channel so can’t give you the link here but click here to subscribe to my channel for more videos all related to desk workers), and Quadratus Lumborum, Psoas and lower abdominals.
Get adjusted and no I am not saying it because I am a chiropractor. When you get adjusted, the nervous system gets activated and its activation will set ALL main part of the command center so the Brain, knowing what is going on at any given moment, can effectively give the command to balance the frame work we call the muscle skeletal system! The whole issue came as a result of imbalance in the musculoskeletal system so unless that is addressed, the problem will come back.
Active Release Technique is another amazing technique that is great. Here, you go through the specific range of motion determined by your chiropractor ahead of time while she presses on specific parts of the muscle. This quickly gets rid of many embedded trigger points that cause shooting pain down the leg. In my practice, I normally don’t do more than 10-15 minutes of it at any given appointment and instruct patients to drink plenty of water after.
Getting massaged is super helpful in addressing the IMMEDIATE discomfort BUT it is not going to get to the root cause of the problem.
Remember, the root of this whole issue is the imbalance in the skeletal system. I am a true believer in massage and in fact, have massage therapists in staff; we work together along with patients to form a team that gets to the root of the problem. I specify what muscles to focus on, the massage therapist reports back as to what she worked on and the status of the given muscle, patients stretch based on what I assign, they modify their work and home environment and they get adjusted to activate the nervous system so the Brain can be in full faculty to implement the whole team’s work effectively.
Yoga is SO important. Back before there was a yoga place at every corner, I used to send my patients to BlockBuster (remember them?) to rent a Yoga video. I know, I for one, was accused of being the hippie of health care which cracked me up!! I guess if one embraces natural approach, without entertaining meds, implementing correct life style that is compatible with our being, she is called a hippie!! 🙂
The reason Yoga is so important is because it not only encourages stretching but certain poses (all balancing poses) activate the part of the brain called PMRF so we may hold a better posture, to be upright against gravity, and to undo the forward flexion posture that is dictated by the sedentary life style.
We are the Designers and the Directors of our own lives so let’s design and direct it the way we wish to live it.