What is Sciatica?

by Apr 30, 2018Anatomy, Injuries

What you need to know about Sciatica

Sciatica describes pain that runs along the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve runs along your lower back, down through the gluteus and into the lower leg. It is also the longest nerve in the body. Sciatica is most common in adults aged 30-50. 

What Are the Symptoms?

  • Pain that begins in the lower back and spreads through the buttocks, and lower leg

  • Pain is often described as dull, and aching or is described as burning, sharp, shooting pain

  • Tingling and numbness is often common in the leg

  • Muscle weakness in the affected leg

  • Most common in adults 30-50

  • Pain is often worse during coughing or sneezing, due to an increase in abdominal pressure

Sciatica Symptoms

The sciatic nerve runs from the low back all the way to the foot. Pain from sciatica can occur in any of the purple regions.

What is the cause?

Sciatica can be caused by a variety of circumstances that put pressure on the sciatic nerve, some of the more common causes are listed below:

  • spine degeneration (usually more common in older individuals)

  • Bulging or herniated disc in the lumbar spine

  • Piriformis syndrome (tightness of the Piriformis muscle that compresses the sciatic nerve)

  • Any traumatic injury that places pressure on lumbar spine and could pinch the sciatic nerve

  • Inflammation from arthritis, sprains, joint slippage or infection

  • Poor posture

How to Diagnose Sciatica?

If you have any of the symptoms listed above you should see a physiotherapist to diagnose and treat your sciatica symptoms, and help prevent sciatica in the future. 

A physiotherapist will complete a full orthopaedic and neurological examination. Your physiotherapist will also take a medical history and ask you questions about your symptoms. An MRI, CT or X – ray can be used to help diagnose sciatica, but is often not needed. If your physiotherapist determines that you have sciatica, they will begin further investigating the root cause of sciatica. 

How is it Treated?

It is important to have a physiotherapist treat sciatica, to help reduce pain and strengthen the appropriate muscles to help you return to normal activities pain free. The method of treatment will be different for each individual depending on the cause of the sciatica. 

  • Heat and Ice is often used to manage sciatica symptoms

  • Education on sciatica management

  • Range of motion and stability exercises

  • Stretching program

  • Manual therapy

Corticosteroid injections have not been proven as an effective treatment for sciatica. Additionally, studies show that people who rest, do not have any faster recovery than people who continue moving and exercise supervised by a physiotherapist. It is important to continue moving in a safe way, under the supervision of a physiotherapist to help reduce pain and prevent the weakening of the affected leg. Have any questions? Click the button below.


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