I can confidently say, after 4 years working with people afflicted by sciatica on a daily basis, that most treatment for this problem falls flat.
If you’ve got sciatica, there’s no doubt that you’ve been inundated with promises about how a certain medication will take your pain away or how this or that machine can cure sciatica in just 24 hours.
Unfortunately, if you’re like 95% of people, each time has been a let down. The sad fact is, most sciatica treatments do fail. Today, we’re going to discuss the main reasons for why most sciatica treatments don’t fulfil their promise and how to have more success in the future.
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A Big Problem
Sciatica will affect up to 3% of the population over the course of their lifetime. Considering that’s such a huge number of people, it’s lucky that 90% of people do recover from sciatica naturally within about 12 weeks, no matter what they do.
These people are the lucky ones, and I’m certain that most of the people reading this will be asking “why didn’t that happen for ME?” right about now.
Well the truth is, it’s probably not anything that you’ve done wrong. It’s also not necessarily the fault of any of the professionals you might have asked for help. It is difficult to help someone get better from sciatica and there are absolutely no guarantees of success (this is one of the reasons I offer a 90 Day Money-Back Guarantee on all my recovery plans – no program can ever work for everyone). But there are certain reasons why some people fail to get better that CAN be changed.
And to tell you the truth, in the last 4 years, I’ve made all three of these mistakes with clients at one time or another! But that’s OK – you learn through mistakes and that’s how you improve.
Let’s talk about the 3 reasons most sciatica treatments fail and how you can avoid them.
Reason #1: They Keep Aggravating the Problem
This is by far and away the biggest reason for a failed sciatica treatment.
What’s so shocking is that no one talks about this problem. I ran a quick Google search today for sciatica exercises. Every single result on the first page failed to mention how the exercises you do for your sciatica NEED to be pain-free!
They jump in and suggest everyone hugs their knees to their chest or stretches out the painful piriformis muscle, with absolutely no mention of the fact that if you aggravate the sciatic nerve it won’t get better!
And it doesn’t stop at Google. If you go into the average physical therapy clinic, you’ll find exercises regularly given out that “stretch the nerve” or “massage out tension” without any regard for how the person feels during or after the treatment.
If you finish your sciatica exercises and feel worse than when you began, you’re currently living through this mistake! Don’t stand for an exercise that worsens your symptoms. It’s your body’s way of saying STOP!
And no, I don’t say this for everything.
For most painful problems, in fact, it’s absolutely OK to push through a little pain. But for sciatica, when we are talking about inflammation of the sciatic nerve, you need to pay attention to what your body is saying and STOP if it’s sore.
The same goes for massage, manipulation, mobilisation or any other technique a professional is using with you.
Often, a far better alternative is to stretch the non-painful leg.
Here’s a video demonstrating a great way to go about doing this:
Get checked by your doctor or physiotherapist before commencing any new exercise programme.
Please note this exercise will not be suitable for all.
Reason #2: They Don’t Give It Enough Time
I’ve got some great news for you: your body has all the resources it needs to heal your sciatica. It can repair a disc, lubricate a joint and resolve a sprain.
However, it needs the right conditions to do so. These conditions include the things I speak about all the time: rest, activity, the right exercises, a good diet, and many more.
The other thing it needs? Time.
Part of our problem as humans with an injury is that we give up on the rehabilitation process too soon. I speak from experience here with my own injuries as well as my work with people with sciatica.
The sad part is, often you’re 3 feet from gold without knowing it. You stop an exercise routine and change it completely because it wasn’t working – but you might’ve been just a week or so away from feeling the improvements!
As a general rule of thumb, I’d expect most people to be feeling noticeably better within 4-6 weeks after starting an exercise program. Some feel better within days, others take a bit longer. But doing something for a week then changing it because it isn’t working is a real shame – you could be so close to success.
There’s no denying it can be frustrating when you put in the work and don’t feel any better. But make sure you give it a good shot first! The same goes for physical therapy. It takes time to feel the benefits, often up to 8-12 weeks in some cases, but these improvements tend to be solid and permanent once they do come about.
Keep going. If you’re struggling with motivation, get some support! Don’t do it alone. And remember, your body is working hard to get better… It just needs some time.
Reason #3: The Underlying Problem Is Never Fixed
This is the number one cause for a sciatica recurrence. Not fixing the underlying problem that caused the sciatica in the first place is a big mistake but it’s often overlooked once you start to feel better.
You see, sciatica doesn’t just start out of the blue. It’s usually not a single event that caused the sciatica, even if it started in a flash.
It’s usually a build up of stress or strain over time that caused your sciatica.
It could be stress to the discs from a terrible lifting technique, as a result of weak back and leg muscles that caused your disc bulge. Or it could be a horrible running style that caused your piriformis syndrome.
You get the idea. The problem builds up over time. And I can help you relieve some of the symptoms. But if the problem was caused by repeated stress and strain, if we don’t address the cause, it’ll come back again and again.
I’ve made this mistake before. Working with a runner who had piriformis syndrome, I was able to help them reduce their symptoms in a few weeks. They went back to running, and I signed them off. Everything was going great and I was patting myself on the back like an idiot.
Until they came back 4 weeks later with the same problem. Only it was worse than before, and now they couldn’t run at all. Guess what? I hadn’t properly fixed the underlying problem.
They had weak gluteal muscles on one side and I had just given them some basic strengthening exercises to start with, never progressing them on. Running places a huge demand on the gluteals – it’s no wonder that, when those glutes got tired, the poor old piriformis had to pick up the slack – and the pain came back as a result.
Don’t make this mistake – even when you feel better, you need to think critically about what caused your problem in the first place. Was it poor overall fitness? A bad lifestyle? Weakness in one area or another? Be frank with yourself or ask a professional to take a look. It should remain your priority to sort that issue out, even when the pain is gone.
That’s the only real way you’ll be able to stop it from returning.
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Now you know the main reasons for treatment failing, you can minimise your chances of this happening to you!
I realise I’ve been guilty of these mistakes in the past with my clients. That’s why I wanted to pass this message onto you!
What are your thoughts on the reasons in this article? Have you fallen into any of the mistakes above yourself? Leave a comment below and let us know!