Dealing With a Bit of Sciatica

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Back around August, when the wildfires were raging in California and elsewhere in the West, we had bad air so my outside exercising was curtailed. One of the activities I did indoors to keep moving was intervals up the stairs, 2 steps at a time. This felt great, but I ended up straining something in my right leg up near the hip. This type of problem can occur if you’re in decent condition and try to switch to a new activity. I had plenty of stamina to do it, but was perhaps using different muscles.

Since then I’ve had issues with pain down the back of my right leg all the way to my ankle. This is probably sciatica, but not the usual form that is due to a back problem. My back is fine, pain free with no limitations of motion. Sciatica starting instead from the hip is possibly Piriformis syndrome. The Piriformis muscle is right next to the Sciatic nerve, and if it gets inflamed it can press on it, sending pain down the leg. I suspected this was the problem so tried self-treating it with stretches which you can find on the internet. These seemed to help, but it wasn’t really going away so I decided it was time to see the Doc, so I went back to my great Orthopedist, Dr. Rodney Wong, who fixed up my rotator cup about 18 months ago.

He confirmed it is likely Piriformis syndrome and referred me to PT (physio to my UK friends) which will start next week. It’s not too severe so I have high hopes that will clear it up. Dr. Wong also wanted to double-check my hips so sent me for x-rays. They look great, 8+ years post-op:

There is an amusing side story about Piriformis syndrome. About 19 years ago when my hip first started bugging me I tried to self-diagnose by scouring the internet. I convinces myself I had Piriformis syndrome. I then made an appointment to see Orthopedic specialist Dr. Julia Kahan. I debated whether I should tell her of my diagnosis, but decided it might be wiser to bow to her expertise. I was glad I did, because it saved me from embarrassment when xrays showed my right hip had severe osteoarthritis. But I am finally right about having Piriformis syndrome, albeit 19 years later!

So far my latest issue has had little impact on my exercise. I don’t do stairs two at a time, of course, but pretty much all my other activities don’t seem to aggravate the situation. Cycling, especially easy spinning, seems to help, maybe it loosens it up. We’ll see what the PT recommends about activity until this is cleared up.