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What is sciatica and what causes it?

Updated: Jul 13, 2021

Sciatica is a pain in the ass! We all know that.

Put simply, it is the pain felt when the sciatic nerve has been trapped, and symptoms include leg pain, hip pain, joint pain and nerve pain that can travel from the lower back all the way down to the feet.

But what most people don’t know is that although the pain is felt in the hip or bottom area, the condition often relates to foot, ankle and core integration.

When the feet and ankles do not provide enough support to the core, the lumbar spine has to compensate to support the body, the lack of core integration tightens the muscles in the area. This includes the muscles in your hips, making it easier for a nerve to get trapped in the tension. Nerves do not like to be pressed or stretched.

Another misconception is that sciatica happens to older people or those with injuries. In my years as a pilates instructor, I have seen clients in their 20s and 30s with this condition. It is important to understand that sciatica is a long term condition that recurs over time if the root cause is not addressed.

So what causes sciatica?

Sciatica can occur due to a number of things. One common cause is injury, such as a slipped disc or bulged disc, or lack of hip rotation. Other causes include lumbar herniated disc, degeneration, lumbar spinal stenosis or spondylolisthesis.

We also have to understand that in Somatic medicine when there is pain in the body it is just the body trying to somatize a past experience.

There are also deeper rooted emotional triggers that can cause sciatica pain. I will explore this a little further down.

Exercises for sciatica

When addressing a nerve problem you have to make sure that the exercises you are doing will not aggravate the condition. Nerves do not like to be pressed or stretched, so it is important to think about strengthening the muscles around the area in order to achieve better support and not just stretch for pain relief.

Exercises for sciatica include a lot of internal hip rotation exercises to strengthen the hip and allow it to release. Body rolling is another technique with equipment, which means that you can address the problem from home.

Shaking is an alternative and highly beneficial therapy based on core energetics. You would need a trained professional to guide you through on a one to one basis for this technique. Shaking helps you to release the tension and create more space in the hip so that the nerve can be freed.

Please note that you need to be careful when exercising with sciatica, to make sure you are doing movement that is beneficial to your body and not making the condition worse. For example, over stretching the glutes when you have sciatica will simply aggravate the nerve. It is best to work one to one with a practitioner / teacher who can know which muscles to target, strengthen and stretch in the hip area and legs.

What Transpersonal Pilates can do for your sciatica condition?

Transpersonal pilates considers the spiritual and emotional side of the body, as well as the physical aspects of pain relief and body strengthening. Your body is your guide, giving you indications when your feeling and thinking is not balanced.

We ask: what happens emotionally in the body when you have sciatica? What is it telling you?

Sciatica relates to deep emotions stored within the body. These emotions often relate to stress and tension around money, career and survival.

You could ask yourself:

Have you been worrying about money recently?

Are you worrying about being able to give financial support to loved ones (most of the time people who suffer from sciatica pain actually do not struggle financially)?

Have you been thinking about life changes such as changing careers?

Finding the emotional root of the problem allows you to address the body pattern that is associated with it. You can then change the pattern and allow the body to heal and regain natural movement again. Exploring the emotional aspect of the pain alongside doing the physical exercises will allow you to recover from the sciatica, without it recurring every time the emotionally stressful situation occurs.

Who can you call for sciatica?

Physio - especially if you have it in both legs.

Pilates (one to one)


Transpersonal Pilates (one to one)

Many people tries Yoga for sciatica pain, however during all my years as a Pilates instructor I have seen clients in pain after their yoga classes, it is very important to know how much you should stretch your hamstrings whilst you exercise, remember nerves don't like to be stretch, you might be causing more pain.

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