A Way to End the Pain of Sciatica in 1 - 3 Weeks

a completely new, faster approach

by Lawrence Gold
certified Hanna somatic educator

Credentials | Publications | Personal Page
see "A Functional Look at Back Pain and Treatment Methods", by Lawrence Gold, C.H.S.E.
reprinted from The Townsend Letter for Doctors, November, 1994, #136, pg. 1186


You can end the pain of sciatica by freeing yourself from the grip of muscles that trap and squeeze the sciatic nerve. Retraining muscular control is the key.

This article gives details, access to first-aid for sciatica and access to a way to clear up sciatica completely and for good.


  • 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 people sometimes think they have sciatica, when actually, what they have are painful muscle spasms in the buttock, thigh, calves, or elsewhere -- a different condition -- I'm 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. Back pain often precedes and accompanies sciatica.

    If you have pain going down the front of your leg, you probably have muscle spasms of the quadriceps muscles; if down the side, it's probably contracted muscles that attach to the ilio-tibial (IT) band. Less common is entrapment of nerve roots other than those of the sciatic nerve -- but that's not sciatica.

    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 explanation is technical, of course, so whenever you're ready to take action to end your own sciatica, click here.

    The Root of Sciatica

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

    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.

    The typical cause of nerve pressure is muscular tension maintained as an involuntary, constant action by the brain, the control center for all but the most momentary muscular activity. This brain-level control, in turn, is acquired by a kind of conditioned learning (muscle/movement memory) set in motion by repetitive use, stress, or sudden injury. As a conditioned/learned action pattern, muscle memory can be changed by new learning (movement learning, not learning about and maintaining good posture or good biomechanics, and not intellectual learning), so sciatica can be relieved and ended (fairly quickly, usually, by this method) by developing sufficient control of the involved muscles to be able to relax them and make them more responsive to voluntary control.

    At the end of this entry, you'll have the opportunity to test what I am telling you.


    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 mednet.com 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.

    First-Aid for Sciatica -- Retrain Certain Muscles

    With the movement exercise shown at right, the muscle/movement memory pattern that traps the sciatic nerve in the low back fades out more with each practice session, as the muscles that trap your sciatic nerve come under control and relax. If you need more, see below.

    For any therapeutic approach to be effective with sciatica, it must normalize muscle/movement memory, which controls muscles and maintains muscular tension/contraction automatically.

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


    As you do this exercise, your back will relax. When you stand, you'll feel taller. Improvement accumulates with practice. You'll need to correct your side-tilt, also. To do so, use movement exercise lesson 3 of The Cat Stretch Exercises. (You'll want to do Lessons 1 and 2 as preparation for Lesson 3.)

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

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    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

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    The Institute for Somatic Study and Development
    Santa Fe, NM

    Lawrence Gold, certified Hanna somatic educator
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