How a Muscle Spasm Can Cause Sciatica and What to do About it.

Sciatica refers to the entrapment of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve of the body emerges from spinal roots L4, L5, S1, S2 and S3 and runs into both legs. The nerve runs from the lower spine, down the buttock, back of the thigh and leg, and into the foot.

How Does a Muscle Spasm Cause Sciatica?

Muscle spasms can cause sciatica pain by causing nerve compression. A muscle spasm is an involuntary tightening of the muscles – these muscles tighten without your conscious intent. Muscle spasms can cause pain, stiffness, tension, cramps, weakness, aches or difficulty with movements. Muscle spasms around the sciatica can cause difficulty with walking and intense pain when changing postures. Spasms can occur as a body reflex to protect itself from further injury or harm. Unfortunately, muscle spasms can occur from a variety of daily activities such as from poor sleep positioning, poor posture, heavy lifting, overuse, excessive exercise or after a workout. 

Potential causes

The main muscle that could be causing sciatica pain is the piriformis muscle. This muscle is located deep within the hip/gluteal (buttock) area. This muscle is next to the sciatic nerve as it exits out from the pelvis and into the leg. The function of the piriformis is to abduct and laterally rotate the leg. These are the movements of returning your sideways outstretched leg back to the body, as well as rotating the leg outwards. Your soft tissue occupational therapist can correctly identify which muscle is causing your sciatica muscle spasm pain. 

Symptoms of Sciatica:

  • Tingling or numbness down the back of the thigh, calf and foot.
  • Pins and needle sensations
  • Dull ache deep within the hip
  • Pain down the back of the thigh, calf and foot.
  • Pain walking up stairs
  • Pain on prolonged sitting
  • Reduction in movement within your hip

Your sciatica pain may not be caused by a muscle spasm. A disc bulge, trauma, spinal stenosis, spinal tumours or spinal degeneration could also be the cause behind your pain, an Xray should be completed to rule out these causes. 


Here are some stretches that will stretch out the deep muscles within your hip and lower back area to help relieve your sciatica pain if it is caused by a muscle spasm.

  • Piriformis stretch

Sitting tall, bend your knee of your right leg and place your foot on the outside of your left knee. Slowly twist to your right side until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold this for 30 seconds, swap sides.

24 Piriformis Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock
Piriformis Stretch
  • Glutes seated stretch

This stretches your gluteus maximis, gluteus minimus and gluteus medius. 

Start by sitting on a chair with both feet on the floor. Bring one leg up so that your outside ankle is placed just above the knee of the other leg. This position should resemble loose crossed leg. On the leg that is crossed, gently press down on your knee until you feel a stretch deep in your hips. Hold this pose for 30 seconds. Swap legs. 

  • Downward dog

This stretches your back, hamstrings, calves, shoulders.

Start on your hands and knees. Your wrists should be in line with, but slightly in front of your shoulders, with your hands pointing forwards, fingers spread apart. Your knees should be directly under your hips, with your feet pointing forward. Now push your hips up and back, straightening your legs, back and arms. You should be pressing through your heels and hands. You may bend your knees slightly if the stretch is too much in this area. Hold this position for 30 seconds. 

Asian women doing yoga exercise at home, stretching in downward facing dog  pose or adho mukha svanasana in white bedroom. | Premium Photo
Downward Dog Stretch

Soft tissue occupational therapy treatment

Soft tissue occupational therapy treatment focuses on treating musculoskeletal disorders of the body through diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation. A soft tissue occupational therapist will be able to provide sciatica muscle spasm pain relief through hands-on massage treatments such as trigger point therapy and myofascial release.

If you would like sciatica muscle spasm treatment, book in to see our friendly and experienced soft tissue occupational therapist at Urban Health HQ. You can make an appointment today or contact us by calling 0411 563 391 or email 

Published by Urban Health HQ

We are a health and fitness centre offering Occupational Therapy, Exercise Physiology, Personal Training and Group Fitness classes.

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