Sciatica is often thought of as being caused by a torn or protruding disc in the lower back irritating the sciatic nerve. However, several other less severe reasons also may cause sciatic like symptoms.
Despite the cause, sciatic like symptoms can range from low-level discomfort to significant pain and function loss.
Sciatica typically involves radiating pain. This pain travels along the sciatic nerve’ from the lower back to the thigh and down the lower leg's back or side, sometimes even to the foot. The largest nerve in the body is the sciatic nerve. Its irritation or pinching can cause a widespread distribution of symptoms.
Symptoms of Sciatica
- Sciatica pain usually starts in the lower back.
- It radiates down the buttock, leg, and calf.
- Sometimes the pain can spread to the foot.
- The pain ranges from an aching or burning sensation to intense shooting pains.
- There may also be muscle weakness, numbness, or tingling in the leg.
Diagnosis of Sciatica
- Sciatica is diagnosed based on symptoms, the severity of pain, and a detailed examination.
- Your physiotherapist will test for muscle weakness and focus on the location of the pain.
- You may also be advised for an X-ray or CT scan if there is a sign of high-level structural involvement.
- If there is no firm indication of structural involvement, imaging is best avoided as it often shows only regular age-related observations.
Causes of Sciatica
- Sciatica is often the result of the nerve root compression at the site where it leaves the spine. There are several causes of sciatica.
- The common cause is pressure from a herniated disc.
- Other reasons are compression of the nerve from nerve irritation, local swelling, and joint inflammation.
- Young people usually suffer from sciatica due to a prolapsed intervertebral disc. In older adults, it can occur due to osteoarthritis and changes in the spine due to ageing. Other causes of sciatica include:
- Poor posture
- Spinal stiffness
- Prolonged sitting
- Unusual bouts of the heavy lifting
- Long-term abnormal loading practices over the hips and knees
- Bone disorder or local injury
The great news is the majority of sciatic like symptoms are non-structural or only moderately structural. It means they are non-surgical and respond well to physiotherapy treatment.
Physiotherapy Treatment for Sciatica
Physiotherapy for sciatica aims to soothe the sciatic nerve and improve spinal mobility, reducing pain and discomfort. It is achieved through a variety of interventions, including:
- Massage and dry needling to reduce tightness
- Spinal joint mobilization to restore mobility
- Stretching advice and guidance
- Exercise advice to relieve pressure on the injured area
- Evaluation and advice on preventing recurrence
- Postural advice
Physiotherapy for sciatica is done in a series of stages. Initially, the focus is on alleviating pain and soothing the irritated nerve.
Once the pain and swelling start settling, the next phase restores strength, flexibility, and normal posture. It can be achieved using manual treatment methods specific to you and exercises guided by your physiotherapist. Your physiotherapist will explain to you how the exercises are beneficial for you at each recovery stage.
The final phase focuses on resuming your daily activities while ensuring that you regain regular movement patterns. To lessen the risk of recurrence of sciatica, completing your rehabilitation is advised.
We take the time to give you advice and strategies to prevent future problems. In addition to fine-tuning mobility and strength exercises, we will help you learn self-management techniques to resume your leisure and sporting activities with confidence.
Physiotherapy is an efficient way to resolve sciatica and reduce the risk of recurrence. Your physiotherapist will prepare a treatment program to ensure you achieve relief from your pain and discomfort.
They will also lead you through an exercise schedule to satisfy your specific needs and stage of recovery. If you’re seeking physio for sciatica or any other kind of back pain, contact us at Pragati Physiotherapy Clinic for more information.