How to End Sciatica

A Completely Different Approach with Explanation

by Lawrence Gold
certified Hanna somatic educator

Eight Minute Introduction to Clinical Somatic Education


Most sciatica is a pinched nerve condition caused by muscular tension in the back or buttock. Rarer forms involve disc damage.

Because most therapies find clearing up sciatica difficult and slow going, this article explains further and provides a way to clear up sciatica much more quickly and completely -- in about two weeks -- satisfaction-guaranteed.

See the "Consultation and Coaching" video at left.


  • The Root Causes of Sciatica

  • Four Types of Sciatica

  • Help for Two Types of Sciatica

  • First-Aid for Sciatica -- Retrain Certain Muscles

  • A Way to Clear Up Your Own Sciatica, Completely
  • Because some people think they have sciatica -- when actually, what they have are other conditions that mimic sciatica -- I'm first going to teach you to distinguish sciatica from other conditions.

    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. If, when rubbing these places, you feel like you can't reach the pain, it's nerve pain. If rubbing brings relief, it's muscular pain, not sciatica.

    If you have pain going down the front of your leg, you may have a muscle spasm of the front thigh muscles; if pain down the side, it may be ilio-tibial (IT) band syndrome; if numbness or burning down the front, it's likely a twisted sacrum. Click to learn more.

    Next, I explain the root causes of sciatic pain, the four types of sciatic pain, and a reliable remedy for the two (most common) types.

    The Root Causes of Sciatica

    The two most common forms of sciatica come from nerve compression caused by tight muscles in the back and waist (common sciatica) or buttock (piriformis syndrome). More, below.

    Muscle tension of this sort persists despite efforts at relaxation, maintained at an abnormally high level by brain-level conditioning. Because brain-level conditioning overrides efforts at relaxation, symptoms persist or return shortly after massaging, stretching or manipulation. For that reason, sciatica tends to persist despite therapeutic efforts and people find it difficult to correct. It's a matter of approach.

    While massaging, stretching, and manipulation tend to produce limited improvement, another approach brings rapid and durable improvement: change the brain-level conditioning.

    Click the image to Learn About a Results-Guaranteed Program.
    This brain-level conditioning (muscle/movement memory) usually forms at a moment of injury (a leg or foot injury, a hard fall) as a cringe response to the pain that becomes permanent. Movement and posture change. With common sciatica, a side-tilt forms (see photos, below, showing "before" and "after".)

    To correct these changes involves ending the cringe response. The somatic education offered, here, causes both relaxation and a durable improvement of muscular control, posture, and movement. No external manipulation is involved; it's done entirely by learning to control the muscles and movements involved.


    There are two most-common causes of sciatica, both involving muscular entrapment, one less-common cause involving disc damage (herniation or bulge, rupture or tear), and a still-rarer cause that involves narrowing of the spinal canal or exit holes for nerves (foramena) -- sometimes not the actual cause, but diagnosed as such -- four types, all told.

    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 sciatica.

    Piriformis Syndrome

    Piriformis syndrome is much rarer than common sciatica. A medical writer at 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.

    for Common Sciatica and Piriformis Syndrome Sciatica

    Because results typically come rapidly through the method described, here, surgical intervention is properly a last resort; an MRI scan may be scheduled while you practice somatic education exercises. Remember that I'm saying one-to-three weeks; you may have to wait longer than that for an MRI appointment. If your sciatica disappears (likely), you may cancel your MRI appointment.

    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.

    Ruptured discs, and their precursor, herniated disc(s), are delicate conditions that require special care. Refrain from somatic education exercises because, as gentle as the exercises are, you may not be accustomed or able to work gently enough. You should do somatic education exercises if you have a herniated disc only under the guidance of a certified clinical somatic educator and should not do somatic education exercises, at all, if you have a ruptured disc.

    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, surgery must still deal with muscular contractions that are virtually always present with sciatica.

    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 sciatic 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

    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.

    Demonstration Somatic Education Exercise

    With the movement exercise shown at right, the muscle/movement memory pattern that traps the sciatic nerve in the changes more with each practice session; the muscles of the lower back come under control, come free, and relax.

    For any therapeutic approach to be effective with sciatica, it must normalize muscle/movement memory, which the underlying cause of the tensions that cause sciatica.

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


    This is the first of the exercises you use to clear up sciatica.

    Each time you do this exercise, your back will relax a bit more. Improvement accumulates with practice.

    Click Somatic Education Exercises for Neuromuscular Stress and Pain, to learn more about the program.

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    Here's a free preview of Somatic Education Exercises for Neuromuscular Stress and Pain, exercises that completely clear up most sciatica.

    Point and click image for access.

    Look for "audio preview" in middle column of the page.

    Somatic Education Exercises for Neuromuscular Stress and Pain

    Lessons 1 - 4 specifically effective for sciatica | 1 - 3 weeks

    The Institute for Somatic Study and Development
    Santa Fe, NM

    Lawrence Gold, certified Hanna somatic educator
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