A common complaint among runners, athletes, and humans in general is back of the thigh and calf pain and tightness that does not resolve with rest and stretching. Deep tissue massage to the areas, specific strength training, ice, and anti inflammatory medication may help but the issues do not fully resolve. The symptoms may or may not include paresthesia (numbness, tingling, or coldness in the thigh, lower leg, ankle, foot or toes). Usually the patient has a history of onset of pain from an injury or just a gradual onset with no known cause. In our clinic we have had many individuals that have seen multiple other providers including doctors, chiropractors, and sometimes other PT’s. If treating the location of the pain has not resolved in 6 weeks or less the problem could be related to nerve tension. More often than not, the Patient will report a tightening discomfort in either the Glute, Hamstring or Calf muscle(s). We have seen this misdiagnosed on a frequent basis. A higher percentage of Patients with this problem have pre existing back problems or tightness. Note that this can still occur with no previous back injuries.
The sciatic nerve goes down the back of the thigh before splitting into two parts above the knee with one branch supplying the outside of the lower leg and foot and the other branch the calf and bottom of the foot. It originates from roots of the spinal cord in the lower lumbar spine. Commonly lumbar discs can bulge and rub on or tether these nerve roots as they exit the spinal canal. This can be happening with no back pain at all, only the leg symptoms described above. If this is the source of nerve tension your lumbar spine joints and surrounding fascia need to be specifically mobilized and decompressed.
As physiotherapists, we can use our hands to feel mobility, our eyes to observe movement, and ask the right questions to identify this problem and treat it effectively with mobilization techniques to the involved area. Once we locate the area(s) where nerves are adhered we can painlessly and effectively mobilize the involved areas and give you exercises to help heal and prevent recurrence.
A special test we perform is the “Sit/Slump Test”.
You should not do this stretch for self treatment unless instructed by our physical therapists to do so. You can, however, do it gently once to see what it does to your symptoms. You will not likely be successful treating this on your own. Once corrected you should be able to maintain and keep the issue resolved. Come see our team or contact us to try and find a qualified practitioner in your area.