The more I speak to Equestrians regarding their fitness the more I meet who suffer with Sciatica.
Now I’ll be honest Sciatica is pretty common in general. As the Sciatic nerve runs parallel to the Piriformis which is one of our hip muscles. Due the increasingly sedentary nature of our lives, sitting down all day causes tightness in the front of our hips as they are shortened all day and weakness in the back as they are lengthened and therefore not activated all day.
If you do yard work all day, the constant bending over or poor posture when standing/teaching etc. can also create the same issues.
Then when we ride we actively try to stretch out and use our hip flexors, so depending on our particular problem we are either asking a weak muscle or muscle in spasm to work or trying to stretch out a long and weak muscle. Either way recipe for disaster i.e.pain in the bum literally!
Any tightness, weakness or impingement of our hip flexors particularly our piriformis will inhibit our Sciatic Nerve as it is intertwined between them.
Now without giving a thorough assessment I can’t tell you which side of the coin you are on whether that be weak, tight or in spasm and to be honest even the most advanced of physios will not be able to give you a 100% answer. So, what I would suggest is working from the safest possible point and that is to try to release any muscle spasm first. That is because treating with a muscle release will either a) release the spasm ready for stretching or b) if it is not in spasm it will do no harm. However trying to stretch a muscle in chronic spasm will actually make the problem worse! So safest option first.
So to take out any potential chronic muscle spasm in the piriformis I recommend to my clients an anti spasm exercise called 4 Sign.
This can be done either seated or lying down.
Cross your leg over the opposite knee ensuring that your ankle bone is on the outside of that knee. Press up into your hand with your leg at 20% of Maximum Effort for 20 seconds, rest and repeat Do this 4 times each side 4 x per day
This should be done for at least a fortnight before moving onto stretching. So I’m not going to tell you about that yet as I don’t want you jumping ahead!