Low back pain is often nerve-wracking, especially when it starts shooting down your leg. The worry is that it could be a symptom of a serious spinal injury or neurological disease. In truth, there are several causes of sciatica, the vast majority of which are entirely benign and temporary. One common example of a temporary, benign cause of sciatica is a deep glute spasm.
The deep glutes are a group of muscles which sit around the back and side of the hip joint, underneath the more superficial Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Maximus muscles (see below).
They are smaller and weaker than those superficial muscles so, under normal conditions, the function of the deep glutes is to stabilise the hip joint and to smooth the movements of the larger muscles. However, if the larger glute muscles become weak (because of under-use or some other reason), then the deep glutes have to over-develop to compensate.
Muscle over-development is painful, no matter where those muscles are, but for any other muscles group, the pain would be fixed in the location of the muscle - not referring to the low back or shooting down the leg. The reason that the deep glutes are different is that, by a quirk or anatomy, all of the deep glutes are clumped around the sciatic nerve (see below)
The shortened, inflamed muscles produce inflammatory chemicals into the local tissues which interfere with the accuracy and efficiency of the sciatic nerve. All of a sudden you're feeling pain all over the sciatic nerve from the low back all the way to the foot!
The immediate cause of the pain is the sciatic nerve, but the underlying reason for the pain isn't nerve damage - it's a tight muscle in your deep glutes. Direct needling of the offending muscle, couples with some regular static stretching will be enough to remedy the pain.
For more information on sciatica and low back pain, email me directly via the contact page. For specific information on an injury you have, or for treatment, contact one of my clinics directly. You can find that information here.
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Dr Mitch Clark