How to End Sciatica

A Completely Different Approach with Explanation

by Lawrence Gold
certified Hanna somatic educator

Eight Minute Introduction to Clinical Somatic Education


Sciatica is a pinched nerve condition commonly caused by muscular tension triggered by injury.

To end sciatica, it's necessary to retrain control of the muscles involved in the nerve-pinch. As muscular control increases, muscles relax and the pinch comes off the nerve. Pain fades immediately upon completion of the retraining process.

This article explains more, gives access to an introductory somatic education exercise and provides a way to clear up sciatica completely through a somatic education exercise program for that purpose.


  • The Root of Sciatica

  • Four Varieties of Sciatica

  • Help for Two Varieties of Sciatica

  • First-Aid for Sciatica -- Retrain Certain Muscles

  • A Way to Clear Up Your Own Sciatica, Completely
  • Because some people think they have sciatica, when actually, what they have are cramps and spasms in the buttock, thigh, calf, or foot -- a different condition -- I'm first going to teach you to distinguish sciatica from muscle pain.

    The typical sciatica sufferer has radiating pain that starts at the buttock (usually one side, only) and that may extend down the back of the thigh as far as the foot. Sensations may include numbness, burning, or the feeling of a hot cable (or poker) going down the buttock or back of the leg. If, when rubbing these places, you feel like you can't reach the pain, it's nerve pain -- sciatica.

    If you have pain going down the front of your leg, you probably have muscle spasms of the quadriceps muscles (front thigh); if down the side, it's either contracted muscles that attach to the ilio-tibial (IT) band or a twisted sacrum.

    Next, I explain the root of sciatic pain, the four underlying causes of sciatic pain, and a reliable remedy for two of the types.

    The Root Cause of Sciatica

    Sciatica usually comes from nerve compression caused by muscles held tight by muscle/movement memory conditioning. There are exceptions, which I explain, below.

    Sciatica is what is known as "referred pain" -- a medical term, but not a very clear one, so I'll explain it.

    Referred pain results from pressure on a nerve. The pain exists not at the point where the nerve is under pressure, but somewhere along the length of the nerve or at the place where it ends. The "referred" part has to do with the part of the body for which the nerve provides sensation. As I said, it's not a very clear term, but it's the one used in the disciplines of neurology and physical therapy.

    Click the image to Learn About a Results-Guaranteed Program That Uses a Completely Different Approach
    The typical cause of nerve pressure is constant, involuntary muscular tension maintained by the brain, the control center for all but the most momentary muscular activity, by habit. This brain-level habit (muscle/movement memory) forms from repetitive motion or sudden injury. Muscle memory can be changed by deep movement training(not learning about and maintaining good posture or good biomechanics, and not intellectual learning); deep movement learning, unlike "maintaining good posture" is second nature, so sciatica can be relieved and ended fairly quickly and lastingly, by this method.

    At the end of this entry, you'll have the opportunity to test a demonstration somatic education exercise, so you know what the exercises are like.


    There are two most-typical causes of sciatica, both involving simple muscular entrapment, one less-common cause involving disc damage (not herniation or bulge, but rupture or tear), and a still-rarer cause that involves narrowing of the spinal canal or exit holes for nerves (foramena) -- many times not the actual cause, but diagnosed as such.

    To understand the two most common causes of sciatica, it helps to know the path of the nerve from spinal cord down the leg, as the nerve pressure occurs at different places.

    The sciatic nerves have nerve roots that exit the spinal cord at the levels, L3 - L5, the lowest three vertebra of the lumbar spine (low back). The nerves pass in front of the sacrum (central bone of the pelvis) and then behind the pelvis and down the backs of the legs. They divide approximately at the knees and pass down the calves to the feet.

    Common Sciatica

    Common sciatica results from a combination of excessive swayback (lordosis) and side-tilt (scoliosis) -- both muscularly induced conditions maintained by muscle/movement memory.

    The combination of swayback and side-tilt reduces the space through which the nerve roots pass and squeezes them ("nerve impingement" or "pinched nerve"), which causes referred pain (in this case, sciatica).


    Piriformis Syndrome

    Piriformis syndrome is much rarer than common sciatica. A medical writer at writes of piriformis syndrome as follows:

    ... irritation of the sciatic nerve caused by compression of the nerve within the buttock by the piriformis muscle. Typically, the pain of the piriformis syndrome is increased by contraction of the piriformis muscle, prolonged sitting, or direct pressure applied to the muscle. Buttock pain is common."

    Piriformis syndrome comes from contraction of the piriformis muscle of the buttock (usually one side, only), through which the sciatic nerve passes in some people, and around which it passes, in others. Mere passage through the muscle is not enough to cause symptoms, but if the piriformis muscle is too tight for too long, sciatica results.

    Although both common sciatica and piriformis syndrome take a long time to develop before symptoms appear, they both resolve very quickly, once the muscular cause ends.

    The Third and Fourth, Still-Rarer Varieties of Sciatica

    A third form of sciatica occurs when a spinal disc has ruptured, with nerve root pressure caused by the extruded disc material (nucleus pulposus) or by entrapment between vertebrae (L3 - L5) that have collapsed. This form of sciatica is more rare, but due to the painful nature of sciatica, some people prematurely assume that they have a ruptured disc. Diagnosis calls for an MRI scan.

    Even more rare is a condition in which the holes (foramena) through which the nerve roots exit the spinal column, and/or the spinal canal, narrow because of bone growth (stenosis).

    Generally, these last two forms of sciatica are surgical situations, although some therapists are said to to be able to use "MacKenzie Exercises" to cause the re-uptake of extruded disc material and so alleviate symptoms. Even if successful, therapy must also deal with muscular contractions that are virtually always present.

    Because results typically come rapidly through the method described, here, surgical intervention is properly the last resort; an MRI scan may be scheduled while you practice somatic exercises. Remember that I'm saying one-to-three weeks; you may have to wait that long for an MRI appointment. If your sciatica disappears (likely), you may cancel your MRI appointment.

    Help for Two Varieties of Sciatica

    Where pressure on the sciatic nerve comes from tight muscles, as is most common, the direct remedy is to free those muscles. The most direct and most lasting way to free those muscles is to retrain them using the methods of somatic education. The operative word, here, is "lasting".

    As the basic function of muscles is movement, clinical somatic educators use specific movement techniques to create new muscle/movement memory and so retrain the muscles, so that movement and tension level normalize. The process works for sciatica.

    The muscles of the back are like the string of an archer's bow and the spinal column, like the bow, itself. As tension of the bowstring causes the bow to stay curved, tension of the back muscles causes the low back to bow forward (inward - the swayback). Tension of the muscles along ones side cause side tilt. The combination of swayback and side-tilt traps and puts pressure on nerve roots where they exit the spinal column. Result: sciatica. So the movements you retrain are those that cause you to go into and come out of swayback and side-tilt.

    Somatic education (1) reduces swayback, and (2) reduces side-tilt, so there's more space between vertebrae and the pressure comes off the sciatica nerve roots at L3-L5.

    Dear Lawrence,

    I found you on the Internet while researching more on [Thomas} Hanna's book, Somatics. Profound thanks to you for the two exercises that you have posted for Sciatica. My husband has responded to them with amazing results and our thanks know no bounds.

    John and Barbara Baker
    McKinney, Texas

      Thank you, Barbara, for writing.

      I encourage readers by reprinting letters such as yours (or excerpts) on the website. May I have your permission?

      Lawrence Gold

    Hello, Lawrence

    While his improvement continues to be a roller coaster, those two exercises have offered relief and that is a rare experience with all the many exercises we have tried. Here you go, in the hopes that they will continue to work! I will look into your suggestions on the other e-mail.

    Yes, you may use the wording that makes the most sense to you and readers.


    Barbara Baker
    Posture Coach

    The key to health is motion!

    The approach works even faster for piriformis syndrome -- one step: free the piriformis muscles of the buttock.

    Relief of either of these forms of sciatica occurs within moments of the relaxation and, for all intents and purposes, is permanent, since muscle/movement memory has normalized.

    Demonstration Somatic Education Exercise

    With the movement exercise shown at right, the muscle/movement memory pattern that traps the sciatic nerve in the changes more with each practice session; the muscles of the lower back come under control, come free, and relax.

    For any therapeutic approach to be effective with sciatica, it must normalize muscle/movement memory, which the underlying cause of the tensions that cause sciatica.

    A successful outcome leaves you with no movement restrictions or need to maintain a neutral spine position.


    Each time you do this exercise, your back will relax a bit more. Improvement accumulates with practice. This is the first of the exercises you use to clear up sciatica. Click The Cat Stretch Exercises, to learn more about the program. NOTE: Despite the name, neither stretching nor a cat are involved, but rather, retraining of muscle/movement memory.

    Bookmark this page? [CTRL]+[D] (windows) | Bookmark on Delicious Delicious (CLICK)

    Here's a free preview of The Cat Stretch Exercises that completely clear up most sciatica.

    Point and click image for access.

    Look for "audio preview" in middle column of the page.

    The Cat Stretch Exercises
    Somatic Exercises to Relieve Neuromuscular Stress

    Lessons 1 - 4 specifically effective for sciatica | 1 - 3 weeks

    opt in button

    The Institute for Somatic Study and Development
    Santa Fe, NM

    Lawrence Gold, certified Hanna somatic educator
    Telephone 505 819-0858 | TERMS OF USE | PRIVACY POLICY | click to email: | COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

    This page may be reproduced freely in its entirety.