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How to Get Long-Term Relief for Sciatica Pain in Your Leg

With the world becoming more and more digital and people’s daily habits changing as a result, new types of health ailments are popping up all over. You might be thinking that no one can relate to your intense back pain, but it's actually the opposite! Plenty of people (especially those who do sitting jobs) deal with physical ailments like back pain, sciatica, SI joint pain, and more. The sad thing is the majority of them think that long-term relief for their pain is impossible.

Sciatica pain is a common ailment characterized by a tingling or shooting pain feeling from the lower back or glute down the back of the leg, right where the sciatic nerve is. Getting immediate relief for sciatica pain isn't easy, and if you overlook its underlying cause - chronically tight muscles - it's going to be quite hard. To help you out, we've curated a simple guide that will help you to get long-term relief from sciatica pain in your leg. 

What causes sciatica pain in the legs?

When the sciatic nerve gets pinched it leads to intense pain running from the back and going to your legs. Knowing the underlying cause behind your intense pain will help you treat the symptoms effectively. 

  • Disc injuries - If you've experienced slipped discs in the past, it can cause increased compression of your nerves. When a herniated or bulging disc happens, it might press on the sciatic nerve, and result in sciatica pain down the legs. 
  • Degenerative disk disease - A disease in which the disks wear out, and ultimately their height gets shortened. As these nerves leave the spine, the vertebrae pinch the nerve roots and this can cause sciatica pain. 
  • Spinal stenosis - A narrowing of the spinal canal, which can compress part of the sciatic nerve and lead to pain down the leg.
  • Spondylolisthesis - A spinal condition where one vertebra slips forward over the vertebrae beneath it, which can pinch the sciatic nerve can create pain down the leg.
  • Piriformis syndrome - This muscle deeper in the glute and pelvis area can compress the sciatic nerve, especially if they are tight from chronic over- or under-use, or if the alignment of your pelvis is off.

Self-massage, exercises, and stretches for sciatica nerve pain

If you're experiencing sciatic nerve pain due to chronically tight muscles, your first step should be to ease the tightness. Relieving the compression being placed upon the sciatic nerve will help you get immediate relief for sciatica pain. Here we've listed a few easy ways to help you get relief from pain, including exercises, stretches, and self-massage techniques that target the piriformis and other muscles that can cause sciatica. 

Self-massage for sciatica pain using a ball or foam roller

Take a ball and place it near the center of your glute on the back side of your pelvis. This should be in the general area of your piriformis muscle, which runs from the sacrum to the top border of the greater trochanter of the femur. Lay your bodyweight over the ball and search for a tighter spot.

Once you find one of these tighter spots, remain still and maintain pressure with the ball in that spot for at least 30-90 seconds until you feel the tension fading away. If the placement of the ball causes an increase in the sciatic pain, there is a chance you may be pressing directly on the sciatic nerve. Simply move the ball to a slightly different spot to avoid direct pressure on the nerve.

You may continue to move the ball slightly along the length of the piriformis muscle, searching for additional tight spots to apply pressure to release tension (again, holding for 30-90 seconds in each tight spot). You can also use the ball on the other side of the pelvis, searching for more tightness or muscle imbalances that may be contributing to your sciatica pain.

A lacrosse ball or tennis ball may be something you can try; however, a larger ball that also has a little more “give” to it (such as the Hip Release Ball) when you lay over it might feel better and also provide the level of pressure needed to effectively release the piriformis muscle. Using a foam roller is another possible option. Try them all and find what works best for you!

Reclining pigeon pose

This is one of the best piriformis stretches to get rid of sciatica pain. This will help you relieve those tight muscles to get relief from long-term sciatica pain in the leg.

  • Lay flat on your back on the floor or yoga mat.
  • Bend one of your legs, sliding one heel towards your buttocks.
  • Lift your other leg and cross your ankle over your knee on the bent leg. This is the leg that we’ll be stretching the piriformis muscle.
  • Wrap your fingers to grab the back of the thigh (or your hamstring) on the bent leg, just behind the knee.
  • Gently pull both legs towards your body. Don’t force it.
  • You should feel a gentle stretch on the back side of your hip in the glute. This is where the piriformis muscle is. You may also feel a stretch on the outside of your hip. This is good!
  • Hold for a minimum of 30 seconds. Relax and take some deep, relaxing breaths.
  • Switch legs and repeat the process. Do 3-5 reps on each side, alternating.

Knee to the opposite shoulder stretch

This is another exercise that will help you to stretch your tight piriformis muscles. Follow the below-mentioned steps and get started with getting rid of sciatica pain. 

  • Lay on the floor with your back straight. 
  • Keep your legs outstretched and toes up.
  • Lift your right leg and then bend at the knee, placing your heel on the ground. 
  • Use your hands to grasp your knee. 
  • Pull your right leg towards your left shoulder without lifting your back. 
  • Maintain the position for 30 seconds. Relax and take some deep, relaxing breaths.
  • Repeat the process with the other leg. Do 3-5 reps on each side, alternating.

You may try some other piriformis stretches for sciatica, too. Continue these exercises and self-massage techniques to get relief for sciatica pain. If you don't get the best results from the DIY methods, it is best to seek professional help.

Muscle release for long-term sciatica leg pain relief

The above methods may only offer temporary relief from sciatica caused by muscle tightness and postural issues. To make sure the pain goes away, releasing both your tight piriformis AND tight hip flexor muscles may be the key for long-term sciatica relief.

You might be thinking “But the hip flexors are on the front side of the body. How does that impact the sciatic nerve and cause sciatica pain down the leg?” That is a great question, and here’s why.

When the hip flexor muscles (like the psoas and iliacus) become tight from too much sitting, overuse in sports or activities, from prior injuries, and more they tip the pelvis forward into an anterior pelvic tilt. This can compress the discs and joints in the lower back and potentially pinch on a nerve.

Additionally, this anteriorly tilted position of the pelvis lengthens the muscles on the back side of your pelvis (such as the glutes and hamstrings), making them more difficult to engage properly. When these larger muscles are not activating well enough, the much smaller piriformis muscle tries to pick up the slack. As you may imagine, the piriformis is quickly overworked and tightens up to where it may compress upon the sciatic nerve.

In this scenario, releasing only the piriformis might help in the short-term, but there is the potential for it to tighten back up again if the hip flexor muscles are not addressed. Since they are on opposite sides of the pelvis, these piriformis muscles like to play a game of tug of war with the hip flexors.

Make your pelvis and your sciatic nerve happiest by releasing BOTH the hip flexors (your psoas and iliacus) and your piriformis.

What are the best muscle release tools for sciatica pain relief?

When done well, releasing tight muscles is a precise process that produces very good, very real, and longer-lasting results for sciatica pain relief.

As we discussed earlier, something like a lacrosse ball or foam roller may be sufficient to help find muscle tension in the piriformis muscles and effectively release it. While it would be super convenient if those tools could also target and release the hip flexors, sadly that isn’t the case. But we have a recommendation for you!

You can’t just pick up any old household object and expect it to release your hip flexors to help provide sciatica relief. Items like tennis balls, lacrosse balls, and foam rollers lack the precision needed to reach the iliacus and psoas muscles that are deeper within your pelvis – both of which contribute to many different postural and sciatica-related problems.

The Hip Hook is a patented tool that is designed specifically to release those hard-to-reach psoas and iliacus muscles (aka your hip flexors). When paired with releasing and stretching the piriformis muscle, this is a great muscle release tool to help get rid of sciatica leg pain for good. Not only was it designed by an experienced physical therapist of 20+ years, but over 35,000 people have already used it to alleviate their pain.

Frequently asked questions about sciatica pain in the legs

How do you relieve sciatic pain in your legs?

To relieve sciatic pain, we must determine the root cause of the issue that is pressing on the sciatic nerve and causing the nerve pain down your legs. The issue may be a pinched nerve or a disc injury in the lower, or it could be from a tight piriformis muscle compressing the sciatic nerve that runs right through this muscle.

Using a combination of stretches, self-massages, or muscle release techniques can be used to target the tighter muscles responsible for causing these structural or muscular issues that are contributing to the sciatica pain going down your leg.

What triggers sciatica pain?

Sciatica is triggered by compression of the sciatic nerve, which runs through your lower back and backside of the pelvis before it travels all the way down your leg to the feet. Compression on the sciatic nerve can be from a structural misalignment of the spine or pelvis, a disc injury that is protruding into the spinal canal and pressing on the nerve, or a tight muscle that is compressing the nerve.

How long does sciatica leg pain last?

Sciatica pain down the leg can last for a shorter period of time (weeks) or can last for a longer period of time (months or years). In most cases, sciatica pain can be improved by addressing the tighter muscles in the lower back, pelvis, and hip region that are compressing the sciatic nerve and/or holding the body out of good alignment, which can also irritate the sciatic nerve. In more severe cases, surgical intervention may be needed to help alleviate the pain.

By Christine Koth . Fri Feb 11

Author Bio

Uncovering the cause of your pain is my mission. As a bestselling author and holistic physical therapist with decades of experience, I have helped countless people, just like you, recover from long-standing issues. I've discovered a major cause of pain hidden in the hip and this has lead to my "Iliacus Queen" and hip expert status. I'm here to help you discover causes like this. It doesn't have to be complicated to live a pain-free life. We can do this. I look forward to supporting you on your healing journey.