How to Treat and Prevent Sciatica for Runners

Piriformis Syndrome Treatment

For runners with piriformis syndrome, it will likely be recommended that you cut back on your running mileage. Since the piriformis helps rotate your hips with each step, you stand to make the problem worse by continuing to train as usual.

"A general rule that I use with my runners is that they can [run when] pain-free and have to stop as soon as they start to feel pain," says Wendel.

Conversely, she also emphasizes that too little movement can be a root cause of sciatica. "People who sit at a desk all day should stand up at least every 30 minutes and move a bit," she adds. "This can be a quick break of one minute, but the important thing is to stand and then sit down in a slightly different position."

In addition to making an appointment with a physical therapist, foam rolling and stretching can help resolve this issue. By simultaneously stretching and massaging the tense muscle fibers around the sciatic nerve, a foam roller may reduce symptoms. It is important not to irritate the nerve by pinching it via the roller, however, so be sure to avoid any areas that present numbness during this practice.

MORE: 9 Causes of Hip Pain During and After Running

Traditional low back, hamstring, piriformis and glute stretches also often provide relief. By restoring healthy movement to these areas, sciatica symptoms usually subside as long as you don't continue to train and inflame the area. Similarly, depending on your diagnosis, strengthening these same muscles can play a role in reducing pain. When one of these major running muscles lacks strength, it relies on another to pick up the slack. The result is an overworked muscle, which is a recipe for injury.

While each case of sciatica is unique, it is always a symptom of something else going haywire. By identifying the root cause, you not only relieve nerve pain, but you also avoid other related injuries down the line. Heeding the call of your body to step back from training and figure out how to best move forward will always save you pain and suffering in the long run.

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