Sciatica is a common health issue that is usually overlooked within the healthcare community. Sciatica is when the sciatic nerve is impinged or inflamed causing radiating pain in the butt area and down the leg. One the the main causes of sciatica problems arise from the piriformis muscle, that lays over the sciatic nerve. When the bigger glute muscles do not support the skeleton like they should, the smaller, deeper muscles in the buttocks take over for them.
The piriformis muscle is one of the main culprits in doing a job it is not really supposed to do. When the piriformis becomes so strong and tight from doing a job it is not made to do it impinges on the sciatic nerve. When the piriformis is tight and overused it can cause long term sciatic pain. Stretching is a common treatment for this issue. Stretching is prescribed because of the tight piriformis muscle doing way too much work. But the stretching does not fix the issue of why the piriformis muscle is so tight. So people usually keep stretching for years and years because of the pain. The stretching temporarily relieves the pressure on the sciatic nerve, that is why stretching is usually always prescribed. When someone keeps repetitively stretching certain muscle groups, the body develops other muscular imbalances that can usually cause more structural disruption. When a person constantly stretches a muscle the muscle loses its supportive mechanisms and it actually makes the bony structures (bone) / joint that the muscle is attached to more unstable causing even more pain and possible inflammation.
A huge factor in why sciatica is so prominent in todays society is because humans sit down way too much. When humans sit, the big glute muscles relax and stretch out because of the ninety degree flex in the hip joint. Sitting literally tells the muscles in the butt not to work, since humans are not weight bearing when sitting the huge muscles that support the skeleton do not engage to keep us erect. So combine all the hours and days spent sitting, those combine to years that the glute muscles are not working. Remember when the larger glute muscles do not support the body like they are made to do, the smaller deeper butt muscles (piriformis) take over.
The repetitive pattern of sitting and telling the big butt muscles to go on a long term vacation makes the smaller butt muscles have no choice but to work. This repetitive motor pattern of sitting and disengaging the butt muscles can lead to sciatica pain, back problems and a whole array of other spine issues. So if long term stretching out the large glute muscles causes sciatica, why would someone prescribe stretching to fix sciatica?
Strengthening the gluteus maximus and minimus is a safe alternative to stretching for relief of sciatica pain. By strengthening the muscles that relax every time humans sit makes the smaller, deeper butt muscles work properly and go back to optimum length and tension, therefore relieving sciatica pain. The sciatic nerve can also be inflamed by compressed spinal nerves from the lower back. If you keep the same training protocol of not stretching and strengthening all the bigger muscles in the back of the body the compressed nerves that are causing sciatica pain could be relieved as well. The only surefire way to cure and prevent sciatica and other spinal issues from occurring is to keep the big muscles in the back of the body strong and supportive of the skeleton.
An exercise plan that is focused primarily on the posterior chain of the body and putting the skeleton back into proper biomechanical position is what is needed to relieve pain. Chronic pain all over the body is often corrected when the posture and skeleton are corrected. For treatment of sciatica pain emphasis on strengthening the lower back, glute muscles and hamstrings is what needs to be prescribed by a trained professional.