Four years ago, after a particularly hard work out with my personal trainer, I had my first experience of sciatic pain. It wasn’t immediate but took me by surprise a good few hours after the work out.

Imagine the ground has been electrified and every time you place your foot down an electric shock passes up your leg!! That was my experience of sciatica and it left me hobbling afraid to put any weight onto my right leg because of the sharp leg pain caused.

I didn’t immediately make the connection between the work out and the pain since several hours had passed before any symptoms occurred and this is fairly typical of an ‘over use’ injury. Initially the muscle is torn on a microscopic level and so the injury doesn’t register at all. As you move around the tear grows and inflammation occurs and that’s where the pain starts.

At  this point it’s important to differentiate between true sciatica and sciatic type pain known as Piriformis Syndrome. True sciatica is caused by compression of the sciatic nerve by a vertebrae of the spine. What I was experiencing was muscular in origin.

I had overloaded the muscle doing a seated leg press and this had caused Piriformis – one of the muscles in the buttock to tear and become inflamed.

The sciatic nerve passes above, below and occasionally even through the Piriformis muscle so when it becomes inflamed it presses on the nerve causing that debilitating sharp leg pain. Whilst Piriformis is the ‘prime suspect’ for muscular sciatic pain because of it’s proximity to the nerve, there is some debate that other gluteal muscles may also have the potential to cause sciatic pain so treatment will involve stretching out and icing the whole area to take pressure off the nerve.

Posterior Hip Muscles 1.PNG

So what should you do if you experience a sharp pain down the leg?

If the muscle or joint has an unusual appearance or you are unsure of the cause get advice from NHS Direct or your G.P. before booking a treatment.

If you can make an association with an over use injury:

  • Stretching a muscle too far
  • Overloading it
  • Repetitive action such as running or cycling

then book in for a Sports & Remedial Massage at Natural Balance Therapies in Brighton.

Whilst the pain is acute you may want to try icing the area but remember the following:

  • Never put ice directly onto the skin (you could wrap in a tea towel)
  • Do not apply for more than 3 or 4 minutes at a time (but do ice for 10 to 20 minutes in total)
  • If you leave the ice on the area for too long the skin will go red – this means the area is too cold and your body is pumping blood to it to warm it up – This will INCREASE inflammation NOT reduce it.
  • Do not apply heat to the area (deep heat, hot baths will increase inflammation)

For more advice or to book a treatment call Brighton 771441 or Book an appointment online at
Mark Alexander is a massage therapist and owner of Natural Balance Therapies in Brighton & Hove. We have offer massage, osteopathy and acupuncture with 5 treatment rooms and a team of 15 talented caring therapists.