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Say Whatica?


Two of the most common and most painful running injuries are sciatica and piriformis syndrome. Some consider these conditions one in the same. The symptoms can be very similar but the underlying causes of the conditions are very different.
Sciatica is the irritation of the sciatic nerve usually resulting from a herniated disk or spine degeneration. A frustrating problem with sciatica is that you can't clearly see the nerve or the causes of the injury. But one thing that is clear is the pain which usually radiates down the back, to the buttocks, to the back of the thigh, and down to the outside of the knee. Sometimes it even extends all the way down to the foot.
Piriformis syndrome is pain in the buttocks resulting from a tight piriformis muscle pressing against the sciatic nerve. The symptoms of piriformis syndrome are very similar and may be indistinguishable from sciatica.

In some cases, piriformis syndrome may be causing the sciatic nerve irritation. The sciatic nerve may run underneath or through the middle of the piriformis. Contraction of the piriformis could cause enough compression of the sciatic nerve to produce nerve symptoms. This is one of the main reasons for the confusion over distinguishing true sciatica from piriformis syndrome.

Regardless of whether it's sciatica or piriformis syndrome, if you're experiencing any of these symptoms, you should be evaluated by a doctor. Common treatments inlcude ice, cross-training, physical therapy, strengthening exercises, orthodics, and/or anti-inflammatories. A good friend of mine has been dealing with an extreme case of sciatica for over a year and his doc has ordered an MRI to get a better idea of what's going on.

Adding core exercises to your regular workout routine to strenghten your back and abdominals may help keep sciatica and/or piriformis syndrome at bay.