Muscle imbalance often causes pain that mimics sciatica, explains Dr. Stephen Gangemi. True sciatica typically causes pain below the knee, where the sciatic nerve branches into the tibial and common peroneal nerves, which supply sensation and movement to the lower leg and foot. By contrast, muscle imbalances usually cause pain in the lower back, hip and thigh. Understanding the source of the pain is essential to choosing the correct treatment and achieving relief.
Piriformis syndrome is a muscle imbalance that often causes sciatic nerve pain, according to Dr. Stephen Gangemi. The piriformis muscle runs from the front of the sacrum, a bone in the lower back, to the front of the thigh. In most people, the sciatic nerve exits underneath the piriformis, but in about 15 to 20 percent of people, the nerve goes through the muscle itself. In either case, a problem in this muscle can irritate the sciatic nerve.
Stretching the piriformis muscle often helps symptoms of sciatic nerve pain, states Spine-health. To do the stretch, lie on the floor with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift the right knee to the chest, and grasp it with the left hand. Next, pull the knee toward the left shoulder until you feel a stretch. Hold for five seconds. Repeat on the opposite side. Perform this stretch three times a day, gradually increasing the length of the stretch to 30 seconds on each side.