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Deconstructing sciatic nerve entrapment

Constant or frequent nerve pain? This may be why!

By Jill Anderson


Constant nagging pain, running from your low back, down your leg, to the bottom of your foot, is most likely from your sciatic nerve. No matter what position you sleep in, nothing is comfortable for long. Standing can become daunting. Bending at the waist seems impossible. If you’re thinking “I’m just getting older and this is how it is going to be for life.” I am here to tell you that a solution may lay in your soft tissue. 

Nerves are the body’s communication highways, but unlike roads, nerves are pliable and are made to slide through soft tissues as we move. When they get caught up in a muscular contraction or a compression between bones, they send signals to the brain shouting for help. We call these entrapments radicular (in the spine) and peripheral (running into the extremities — arms and legs). Like a rubber band being overstretched, you may have a sensation of tightness or a pain pattern that runs in a straight line. Nerve pain is usually felt as sharp and stabby or fiery. In the case of sciatic nerve entrapment, you will feel it from your low back all the way to the bottom of your foot.

The first area that can catch this nerve is the lower spine. This happens as it exits the spinal cord or in the narrow pathways of the spinal bones. Next, it can get compressed by a muscle in your glutes called the piriformis. Approximately 20% of the population may have the nerve pass through the muscle, which can be problematic. As the nerve travels down the leg it splits into several branches, some on the front of the leg, others on the back or side. Another entrapment site can be the fibular head on the outside of the knee. If this bone becomes immobile or fixed in place, it can trap the sciatic nerve, causing tension. This is one reason why some people feel the line of pain only to the back or side of the knee. Beyond the knee, the nerve pathways can be pinned in place by the bones in the ankle and foot. All along these pathways, the muscular tissue may get signals from the brain to lock down and protect the nerve. If you are feeling a nerve sensation run down both legs at the same time, especially if it is on the front of the legs, you may be looking at a disc issue. A chiropractor or medical massage therapist should be able to assess the likelihood of this type of issue.

A client came to me with pain running down his right leg and into his big toe. He struggled with this issue for over 12 years, despite other forms of treatment from a variety of other highly skilled practitioners. We tested him for sciatic nerve entrapment using two assessment methods, both indicated his nerve was compromised. Starting at the spine, we released the soft tissue that was causing a compression of the spinal components. After identifying which nerve pathway was caught up in the soft tissue, we began the process of releasing the tissue around the nerve and then pulling the nerve free along the tissue’s pathway. Within three treatments he was pain-free for the first time in 12 years.

Sciatic nerve pain can be a constant and painful follower. It can make everyday activities like driving, exercising, or bending to tie your shoes an arduous negotiation with the body. If this is you, medical massage may be your solution.

Jill Anderson is a Licensed massage therapist for the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork and she studied at the world-famous Esalen Institute in California. She is the owner of Body Innervation Massage located at 1500 N Casaloma Dr., Suite 412, Appleton. Contact Jill at (920) 750-8544 or [email protected] To try medical massage, Body Innervation is offering readers a $45 initial assessment and first treatment with one of their skilled resident therapists. Mention the code HLMA45 while booking. Visit their website at bodyinnervation.com and book under the Resident Therapist Tab on their booking page.

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