Monday, February 23, 2009

Say Whatica?

Two of the most common and most painful running injuries are sciatica and piriformis syndrome. Some consider these conditions one in the same. The symptoms can be very similar but the underlying causes of the conditions are very different.

Sciatica is the irritation of the sciatic nerve usually resulting from a herniated disk or spine degeneration. A frustrating problem with sciatica is that you can't clearly see the nerve or the causes of the injury. But one thing that is clear is the pain which usually radiates down the back, to the buttocks, to the back of the thigh, and down to the outside of the knee. Sometimes it even extends all the way down to the foot.

Piriformis syndrome is pain in the buttocks resulting from a tight piriformis muscle pressing against the sciatic nerve. The symptoms of piriformis syndrome are very similar and may be indistinguishable from sciatica.

In some cases, piriformis syndrome may be causing the sciatic nerve irritation. The sciatic nerve may run underneath or through the middle of the piriformis. Contraction of the piriformis could cause enough compression of the sciatic nerve to produce nerve symptoms. This is one of the main reasons for the confusion over distinguishing true sciatica from piriformis syndrome.

Regardless of whether it's sciatica or piriformis syndrome, if you're experiencing any of these symptoms, you should be evaluated by a doctor. Common treatments inlcude ice, cross-training, physical therapy, strengthening exercises, orthodics, and/or anti-inflammatories. A good friend of mine has been dealing with an extreme case of sciatica for over a year and his doc has ordered an MRI to get a better idea of what's going on.

Adding core exercises to your regular workout routine to strenghten your back and abdominals may help keep sciatica and/or piriformis syndrome at bay.


Anonymous said...

hey runnerdude,

just read your blog for the first time. yesterday was my 1st day as an athlinks new "dude."

anyway, liked the blog. just a comment though... I'm a physical therapist. it seems if your friend was seeing the same Dr. for a year and was just recently getting MRI he should consult a new Dr. Physical therapy should be one of the first interventions to help relieve pain, increase core and hip strength, restore trunk and leg mobility and function. If there was no significant relief from PT, a MRI or additional testing and intervention should be performed soon after.

Just a thought. Keep blogging you're a big help!

RunnerDude said...

Hey, all good points. I'm not exactly sure of all that my friend has done. I know that they have tried several different treatment plans and nothing seems to relieve the discomfort. Hopefully the MRI will shed some new light on the situation. Thanks for reading the blog and your comment! Appreciate the feedback.

Anonymous said...

What causes sciatica symptoms in the first place? In other words is it poor running technique, the wrong running shoes, or a lack of exercise? What can a person do to avoid it?

Sciatica Treatment Blog

RunnerDude said...

By no means am an expert on this, but I did a little research and running was never specifially mentioned as a cause. I think it may be more that running can exacerbate an underlying condition. Seems to be two camps of people who get siatica—runners and oddly enough people who sit all day. From what I can tell, the best way to prevent it is to increase your core strength. This way whether you're a sitter or a runner, when you subject your body to intense movement or exercise, your back will be protected. The following sites, may provide some more information for you.

Anonymous said...

I used to run before I had this sciatica, I stumbled upon this blog (a good one) and it seems like your articles are very helpful.


RunnerDude said...

Glad the blog has provided you with useful information. Thanks for the feedback! Hope the sciatica is getting better for you.