So, it seems like here on the channel, it’s injury week. That’s what’s on my mind because I have a stress fracture. So, I want to talk about something else that’s kind of near and dear to my heart. That’s a really weird way of putting that. But I want to answer the question: Can running cause sciatica?
Now, I say this is near and dear to my heart because I dealt with something that’s kind of like sciatica, and that is piriformis syndrome. They’re in a very similar position, in your butt, basically, around your butt muscles. But they’re two different things entirely. So, you want to know, can running cause sciatica? Well, first, what is sciatica? It’s pain in the sciatic nerve, which runs very similarly to the piriformis and basically, the middle-ish section of your butt down through your leg.
And sciatica is caused by often a herniated disc or some kind of pinching of that nerve -- not a soft tissue injury. So, the difference between the two is the aggravated nerve, often through issues with bone or with the piriformis, a soft tissue injury. So, they’re two separate things entirely. And the answer, in short, is that no, running cannot cause sciatica.
So, if you’re looking up symptoms and signs and you think, “Oh, I’ve got -- I’ve been running a lot, and now I have sciatica.” Most likely, you have piriformis issues. So, if you’ve actually got piriformis syndrome, and that going on, I did a video on this previously, when I dealt with this for the very first time, last year -- two years ago now.
And I have a video on a few exercises you can do, things you can go to, to deal with it and get over it. It can be difficult to get over. But if it’s in running injury, something you’ve been doing while running, most likely it’s not sciatica. So, at the end of this video, I’m going to link to it. There’ll be a link on the screen, you can click on it and check that out. But let’s continue talking about sciatica itself.
So, we know like I said, no running can’t cause sciatica, but it can aggravate it because you’re going to be using those muscles and parts of the body that are moving around and going to be moving along that nerve. So, if you’re using those parts of the body, they can aggravate it further. So, if you’ve already been diagnosed with sciatica and you start running, it can make it feel worse or be more painful.
That being said, there is hope for you if you have sciatica and you want to run. General ideas here, again, not a doctor, but giving you the best information that I have. You want to make sure that you’re not going to go into an area, I would typically consider overtraining and that is building up mileage too fast. You want to make sure that your body is well within its limits.
Now if you’re a runner, you’re probably going to want to try to build up or do more work over time. But you’re probably going to have to be more conservative. You also want to make sure you’re wearing good shoes all the time and that you are running on softer surfaces. This can mean grass, though, you have to be careful about the unevenness of the grass, track, gravel, chat, trails, all those kinds of things. You want to try to stay away from asphalt and cement sidewalks as much as you can.
Those harder surfaces can cause more issues than the softer. It’s also suggested that you shorten your stride. Now, this is going to be hard for you to think about. But often when I suggest people shorten their stride, I say, don’t even think about shortening your stride. Think about the rate of perceived exertion that you have. How hard are you running?
Now you want to keep that same effort but turn over faster. So, if you’re running at 80 beats per minute or 80 strides per minute, that’s one leg. If in a minute, you count that one leg cycles 80 times, you move it up to 90, you only go through 90 times. That means that you can’t push off as hard, you push off a little easier, and your legs spin a little faster.
This will, in effect, shorten your stride. So, don’t think about how long your stride is. I always find that people overthink that, they want to put their leg too far out front or push it out back or any of that. Just worry about how fast are your legs going. Pick up the pace a little bit but don’t increase your exertion. So, your heart rate shouldn’t go up any of that kind of thing. That’s a good way to shorten your stride.
Past those suggestions, you’re gonna have to actually check out somebody who has real credentials to give you medical advice. And if you have that medical advice, things that worked for you, feel free to leave it in the comments below, share it with your fellow sufferers. And hopefully, together we can help each other get back to running pain-free sooner. I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.