Sciatica

Sciatica is the name given to symptoms we experience when the Sciatic nerve has been compressed or irritated. It should be recognised that “Sciatica” is not a diagnosis but a symptom as Sciatica can have many different causes.

Sciatica

What is it?

The Sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body, originating from the lower back, running through the buttocks, down the legs and into the feet. When the sciatic nerve is irritated or compressed by any of the structures it passes you may experience Sciatic pain down the course of the nerve. Sciatic pain can vary from mild to severe.

What are the symptoms?

Sciatica is pain radiating down the legs, you may experience this in just one leg or in both. In addition to pain you may also get pins and needles, numbness and/or muscle weakness which are all signs of nerve irritation.

It is important to note that if you experience other symptoms such as sudden weight loss or a loss of bladder and bowel control you must consult your GP as soon as possible

What is the cause?

As mentioned earlier there can be many different causes of Sciatica. Some of the causes are as follows.

A slipped (herniated) disc

Vertebral discs are found between each vertebrae in your spine. Although they are made of tough fibrous tissue they are prone to rupture. If you have a ruptured vertebral disc its contents can protrude and compress on the sciatic nerve causing sciatica.

Spinal stenosis

A narrowing of the spinal canals through which the nerves run, this can compress on the sciatic nerve causing sciatica.

Piriformis syndrome

The piriformis is a muscle found deep in the buttock, in around 17% of the population the sciatic nerve runs directly through the piriformis. If the piriformis becomes tight then this can compress the sciatic nerve causing sciatica.

Facet joint dysfunction

Each of the vertebrae in your spine are joined by facet joints (or zygapophyseal joints). A sudden excessive movement of the facet joint or years of constant micro trauma through poor posture or heavy lifting can lead to facet joint dysfunction, this can be a cause of radiating leg pain (sciatica).

Sacroilliac joint (SIJ) dysfunction

The sacroiliac joints connect the sacrum to the pelvis (or ilium). These sacroiliac joints bear the weight of the entire upper body; in order to carry this weight safely the SIJ is very rigid with minimal range of movement. At times the SIJ can become displaced due to sudden excessive movement or a steady build up of muscle imbalance; this can be a cause of radiating leg pain (sciatica).

How can we help?

As mentioned above, sciatica can result from many different conditions in many different structures. We can provide you with a comprehensive assessment in order to differentiate which structures are the cause of your sciatic pain. We will then be able to effectively treat the cause of your pain in order to minimise the chance of reccurrence in the future. The following are possible ways in which we might treat sciatic pain.

What types of treatment are available?

Manipulation Therapy – Can help to release joints that have become stiff and dysfunctional.

Deep Tissue Massage – Can reduce muscle tension, improve tissue mobility, enhance muscle contraction and desensitize any painful and overactive areas.

Core Stability Exercises – Can strengthen the muscles that stabilise and support your back.

Manual Mobilisation Therapy – These are passive movements that the therapist applies to the spine to increase range of movement, reduce stiffness and pain.

Exercises and Rehabilitation – We can provide you with a tailored exercise programme focusing on your needs in order to maintain/improve both strength and mobility

Acupuncture – Can stimulate the body’s natural healing response, release pain-killing endorphins and improve functioning of the hormonal system.

Ergonomic and postural advice – Can help you manage your day to day activities whether you’re sitting at a desk or trying to get a good night’s sleep.

Ultrasound Therapy – Can speed up and optimise the healing process.

Interferential Therapy – Can provide pain relief, muscle stimulation, enhance blood flow and reduce oedema.

TENS – Can be applied throughout the day to provide natural pain relief.

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