A Comprehensive Guide For How To Relieve Sciatic Nerve Pain

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Permanent Relief from Sciatica Pain -- Advice from an Expert

Sciatica is commonly regarded as difficult to cure. It is when you take one of the wrong approaches.

The approaches most commonly used to stop sciatica pain include drugs, stretching (including an inversion table or spinal decompression device), adjustments or manipulation, TENS (electrical stimulation), and surgery. If you do, your final relief may take forever.

None of these approaches gets at the underlying cause, so relief is partial, temporary, or may never occur to the point that you are free of sciatica and can move freely.

This article presents the correct approach, one that can end and relieve sciatic nerve pain in a few weeks. But there is a catch: you have to do the work.

There are 2 ways you can approach sciatica: as a "consumer" of care and as a "do-it-yourselfer".

A "consumer" expects to pay someone for their expertise and have them "do it for them".

"Expertise" includes the "expertise" of the pharmaceutical companies. The consumer turns to experts, or to their products, to "fix" him or her. The consumer doesn't want to have to understand; that's what they are paying the expert for.

A "do-it-yourselfer" learns about the condition to the point of arriving at an understanding of its cause that makes sense — and then does what it takes to get the required result.

With sciatica, you can't be a consumer and get the relief you seek. Sciatica doesn't work that way; it's not that kind of condition.

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It's not caused by something external so that you can do or take an "external" approach and fix it. Nor, in most cases, is it a "spinal disorder" caused by a mechanical breakdown or deformation. When those exist, they are an effect of the underlying cause. It's caused by something your body is doing to itself. It's caused by muscular activity.

This article explains what your body is doing to itself (really, what you are involuntarily and unconsciously doing to yourself) to cause the pain and what you can do — not to counteract it, but to cease doing it. When you do, the pain fades out and everything is all right, again.

If you are going to get free of sciatica anytime soon, you're going to have to understand what's going on in you and be a do-it-yourself-er.

If you doubt me, continue with the "consumer" way of operating until you see its failure. Then, you may come back here, learn what you need to learn and become the do-it-yourselfer you need to be to end your sciatica.

Getting Started

The word for today is, "pitfall", defined as:

  • trap, snare; specifically: a pit flimsily covered or camouflaged and used to capture and hold animals or men
  • a hidden or not easily recognized danger or difficulty

To start, the pitfall into which most people with sciatica fall is not the pain of sciatica or of sacroiliac joint dysfunction. That's not the pitfall. The pitfall is the mood and approach you take to getting relief from these conditions — possibly, the way you approach your entire life.

The pain is just the emergency that drives you into your way of seeking relief.

The pitfall is the mood of "action without understanding".

Along with that may be a kind of submissiveness you may have to medical authority — a submissiveness that obediently takes the pain meds or accepts the TENS unit or does the physical therapy stretching and strengthening exercises or takes massage, or uses an inversion table or spinal decompression device, or goes for surgery.

Unwarranted Submissiveness

It's a submissiveness that is unwarranted because those measures don't work. They don't succeed at getting you free to move like a normal person.

This submissiveness to authority may be the way you run your entire life — the submissiveness of a consumer to medical authority that may also show up as skepticism or even aggressiveness toward anyone who claims a greater authority than medical authority. 

A mood of submissive dependency on authorities is understandable, as long as you're not aware of anything better than what they offer. It's not understandable, rational, or responsible if the authority to which you submit isn't producing the result you need. In that sense, it's almost like a bad romantic relationship.

I'm here to remove the legitimacy of that mood of "action-without-understanding" by providing understandable, sensible, actionable information.

I recently joined a sciatica-relief group on Facebook. The first thing I did was to pose the question: "Who here understands the underlying cause of sciatica?" I got a response from one person whose stated understanding "a spinal disorder" and combined with "surgery worked for me", was the full extent of his understanding.

This is no understanding and it the exemplifies the submissiveness to medical authority that I am talking about.

Before I go into any of the explanation of the underlying cause of most sciatica, which you will find easy to understand, I'm going to address a general mindset of most people with sciatica, if this Facebook group is any indication, a mindset that is fostered by the approach of the medical profession.

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That mindset is, "Just get rid of the symptoms. Never mind the underlying cause." It's the mindset of expediency and acceptance of mediocre results, not of the uncompromising demand for final relief.

This mindset of expediency — a mood, again, of helpless submissiveness — is not one that takes final responsibility for results.

It's the mindset of avoidance of pain, of avoidance of inconvenience, of assigning responsibility to someone else, or of adopting hopeful measures without real understanding — not the mindset of identifying the real problem, handling it, and stopping the pain, that way.

Again, this is understandable, given people's indoctrination into submissiveness to medical authority, and perhaps even to all authorities simply because they are considered authorities — perhaps based on lack of knowledge of something better, perhaps based on an upbringing (or educational experience) that demanded submission to authority.

However, it isn't adequate to solve the problem and neither is commiseration between people who have the same pain, although I can understand why one might do it to vent feelings.

While commiseration without an understanding of the underlying condition may lead to kindly suggestions intended to be helpful, suggestions-without-understanding are likely to lead to disappointment and to further despair. They commonly do.

A mood of helplessness then prevails and the mood of submission to authority that can't produce the required result has been reinforced.

There's a point at which people have to take more responsibility or responsibility of a different kind — the responsibility to understand. This is that point.

At one point, the one person who responded to my initial questions said, "I don't know. I am not a doctor."

The difference between you and a doctor is knowledge and training.

I am here to provide better knowledge on this topic than you can get from your doctor or therapist. What makes it better is that:

  1. It makes sense.
  2. It points to an approach that works relatively quickly and very reliably. I'm also here to point you to a kind of self-training that will get you out of pain in a space of, say, weeks.

To review, I've just indicated two approaches:

  1. One that works with understanding and gets consistently good results by addressing underlying causes.
  2. Another, that acts without understanding to seek symptomatic relief by addressing secondary effects, not the underlying cause, that doesn't work consistently, but which may be sanctioned by medical authority (because that's all they know) or recommended by someone trying to be helpful.

You've tried one. Are you willing to try the other?

One might think that in searching for information about sciatica, you'd be on the lookout for something other than what you've already experienced or heard about. I'm asking you to exercise your intelligence toward understanding, not merely to believe an authoritative voice (including mine) or a sympathetic one.

Understanding Sciatica 

Most sciatica comes from entrapment of nerve roots of the sciatic nerve that exit the spine at levels L3 through L5 — the bottom three vertebrae of the low back.

There's nothing wrong with the spine — unless one or more disks have ruptured. It's that the vertebrae are being pulled too closely together by tight spinal muscles that increase the lumbar (low back) curve, combined most often with a side–tilt caused by tightness of the muscles of the side of the trunk.

These two locations of tightness change the curvature of the spine and trap (squeeze) the nerve roots on the inner side of the curve.

The tightness comes from a combination of:

  1. Long-term stress, in which the back muscles tighten and stay tight.
  2. An injury to one side of the body at some point in life that prompted the muscles of the side of the trunk to tighten in a reflexive cringe response and stay tight.

That's it. It's that same tightness that over-compresses disks and causes them to bulge, herniate, or rupture.

A less common form of sciatica, known as piriformis syndrome, involves tightening of the piriformis buttock muscle, also usually triggered by an injury, such as a hard fall onto the buttock. The piriformis muscle squeezes the sciatic nerve that passes through or nearby, and sciatica results.

Your job, should you decide to accept it, is to retrain your muscular control to relieve yourself of the tightness causing your symptoms. It can be done by almost anyone and can be done relatively quickly, with the right technique: pandiculation.

As I said there's probably nothing wrong with your spine. It's an ongoing muscular activity that you can retrain, that causes most sciatica.

You can't change that ongoing muscular activity with drugs, surgery, or stretching. Strengthening — a common strategy of therapy — is altogether out. Think about it. How can strengthening cause a relaxation of too tight muscles?

Those are the two most common forms of sciatica. I've written more at length on two other causes but this is essentially all most people need to know.

In case you still believe in the usual methods of physical therapy and bodywork, here's another video to help you, "The Three Biggest Mistakes Made by People Who Are Trying to Get Out of Pain."

I've explained the pitfall into which you may have become trapped: going for the relief of symptoms without addressing the underlying cause — and the related pitfall of dependency on drugs, surgery, and manipulation and the hope that something somebody does to you or for you will get you out of pain.

I've explained the origin of that pitfall: your indoctrination into dependency on others — and failing to take "won't take 'no' for an answer", personal responsibility for results. I've provided information by which you may understand your condition and the means of your taking responsibility for getting yourself out of pain.

The final obstacles may be that people's attention tends to be superficial — sometimes, new information doesn't penetrate enough, but bounces off — and some people don't want the information just because to change requires something of them.

That's what sometimes makes learning, in general, difficult. Did that just bounce off or did it sink in?

I've identified what I call the prime directive of my field, clinical somatic education: "You gotta wanna". It's up to you. I ain't just whistlin' Dixie.

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Lawrence Gold has practiced as a clinical somatic educator (Hanna somatic education) for lasting relief of pain since 1990, with two years' experience on-staff at the Wellness and Rehabilitation Center of a hospital in Northern California, where he accepted patients by physician referral. Visit his website or request a live online consultation.

This article was originally published at Full-Spectrum Somatics. Reprinted with permission from the author.