Sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other kinds of shooting pain really effect your quality of life. In today’s post, we’ll cover typical approaches to treating these conditions as well as some additional strategies to help stop the pain.
You’re probably familiar with sciatic pain: that shooting pain that runs down the backside of your leg. Sciatica and carpal tunnel are types of nerve entrapment. When a nerve gets pressed on by muscles, it sends a signal that it’s irritated.
Symptoms of nerve issues are different than muscle issues. If a nerve is involved, burning, numbness, and/or zapping/zinging sensations will be felt. If a body part just hurts, it’s more likely that it’s a muscle that needs attention.
Let’s discuss sciatica first. The sciatic nerve starts at the pelvis. You can see that the deep hip external rotator muscles are right beside the nerve. About 20% of people have the sciatic nerve directly running through the muscle itself. Then the nerve continues down the leg running along the hamstring muscles and eventually ending in the calf. If any of those muscles along the nerve’s path put pressure on the nerve, it will talk!
So many people stretch their hamstrings to help give the sciatic nerve some space. But the nerve can also be irritated by the piriformis muscle. Or any of those deep muscles pictured. There are several locations where the nerve can get entrapped. If you’re constantly stretching your hamstrings and it’s only temporarily helping, you may need to look at other muscles that could be pressing on the nerve.
In many cases, you can get relief by releasing the piriformis. My favorite way to do this is by sitting on a tennis ball! The tennis ball serves as an effective poor man’s massage. Watch the video for demonstration on how to roll your piriformis.
Median Nerve Entrapment
There are two big nerves that run down the arm: the median nerve and the radial nerve. They both start at the neck and run down the arm. If you suffer from carpal tunnel symptoms, it’s likely that the median nerve is getting entrapped in one or more locations.
Two of the more common locations for median nerve entrapment are the chest (pecs) and biceps.
On a personal note, I was waking up in the morning with my hands numb. I didn’t have shooting pain, but again, knew that numbness was a symptom of nerve entrapment. So I used a tennis ball to release my chest. My chiropractor gave my biceps a really good massage. And he suggested I do the doorway stretch to keep my pectoral muscles relaxed. Plus, I avoid doing bicep curls in my workouts.
I’m not usually a fan of stretching, but I did this one for 4 days in a row and it helped the hand numbness go away. I held the stretch for 30-45 seconds. Stretching is only warranted in specific cases in my book. I never stretch just because something feels tight. Many of previous blogs including this one and Stretches that are Making Your Posture Worse explain why.
I hope that helps give you some additional areas to focus on when you’re experiencing nerve-related pain. Be careful about following a friend’s advice about what worked for them. Because not every body is the same! It’s always best to get assessed.