What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a common condition affecting millions of people worldwide. It is caused by compression of the sciatic nerve, which can cause pain and other symptoms in the lower back, buttocks, and legs. If you are suffering from sciatica, it’s important that you understand what this condition is and how it affects your body, so that you can access the correct treatment and get relief from your symptoms.
The Sciatic nerve runs from the lower back down through the buttock area and into both legs. When the sciatic nerve becomes compressed or irritated, it causes pain along its pathway in addition to other symptoms such as tingling, numbness or weakness generally in one leg. In some cases, the symptoms may extend down to the foot or toes. The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated disc in the lumbar spine; however, other conditions such as piriformis syndrome, spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spine), spondylolisthesis (slippage of one vertebra over another), and trauma may also cause these symptoms.
What does sciatica pain feel like?
Sciatica pain can feel like a sharp, shooting ache that radiates from your lower back down either leg. It can be described as throbbing or burning and is usually worse at certain times of the day or after periods of inactivity. It can also cause numbness and tingling sensations in the calf area, making it difficult to bend or walk normally. The intensity of sciatica pain can vary from person to person, with some people even experiencing a total lack of sensation due to compression on the nerve roots. Unfortunately, this type of severe pain can make performing daily activities uncomfortable and exhausting.
Causes of Sciatica
Sciatica is a complex condition that can be caused by several factors. Often, sciatica is the result of compression on one of the spinal nerve roots that make up the sciatic nerve, though any damage or disruption to the nerve itself may cause symptoms too. Age-related wear and tear in the spine, such as bone spurs growing from vertebrae, disc bulge, and poor posture can all cause compression of the nerves and result in sciatica symptoms. Other causes may include tightening of the muscles surrounding your hip or glutes (such as with piriformis syndrome) or conditions like spondylolisthesis. Regardless of the underlying cause, if left untreated it’s possible for sciatica to worsen or lead to chronic pain.
What are the risk factors for sciatica?
Sciatica is a painful condition that can severely limit mobility, and many people can be at risk.
- Poor posture and sitting for extended periods of time, especially when combined with improper support for the back, can increase the risk of sciatic nerve compression.
- Being overweight can also aggravate sciatica symptoms, as excess weight places extra pressure on the back.
- Age and health conditions like diabetes can increase the risk of getting sciatica, by causing damage to nerve endings or weakening of any surrounding muscles.
- Herniated discs in the spine may also be responsible, as they can cause inflammation and compression in the area around the sciatic nerves.
Symptoms of Sciatica
Sciatica is a condition that causes pain in the lower back, hip, and leg. It has many different symptoms that individuals can experience, ranging from a mild aches to intense burning sensations. Common symptoms include numbness or weakness in the legs and buttocks, tingling sensations along the path of the sciatic nerve, difficulty standing or sitting for long periods and pain that radiates down one leg from the hip to the sole of the foot. Anyone experiencing any of these symptoms should visit their doctor/physiotherapist to get a proper diagnosis so that an appropriate treatment plan can be developed. It is important to be clinically evaluated if you are experiencing any of these symptoms so that you can get the correct treatment and reduce your risk of developing chronic sciatica.
Treatments of Sciatica
Physiotherapy is an effective approach to treating sciatica pain. A physiotherapist will assess your posture, range of motion and muscle strength and identify the cause of the injury. The management plan will be aimed at decreasing pain and inflammation, correcting spinal alignment and providing you with a customized exercise program to restore your function. Stretching exercises are especially beneficial for relieving sciatic nerve pressure and restoring mobility. Your physiotherapist may also teach you certain postural positions relating to your work and recreational activity that can help reduce strain on the affected nerves.
Chiropractic care involves manual manipulation of the spine in order to realign the vertebrae that have become misaligned due to injury or prolonged poor posture. This helps to relieve pressure on the pinched nerves so that they can heal as well as to restore functional mobility. In addition, chiropractors often use additional therapies such as massage therapy and electrical stimulation in order to provide more targeted relief from sciatica-related pain.
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen can help reduce swelling around compressed nerves while providing temporary relief from symptoms such as tingling or numbness in the legs. However, if over-the-counter medications do not provide enough relief, stronger prescription medications may be prescribed by your doctor in order to make it easier for you to manage your symptoms until other treatments take effect. There are also certain types of injections that may be used to provide more focused relief from certain types of sciatica pain.
Sciatica is a painful but manageable condition with various treatment options available depending on the cause and severity. Physiotherapy exercises can help reduce pain and inflammation while chiropractic adjustments can realign vertebrae so that nerves don’t become pinched again in the future. Ultimately, it is important for those suffering from sciatica to find a management and treatment approach that will provide relief from their symptoms so that they can live free from chronic pain!
What is the best treatment for sciatica?
Sciatica pain can be effectively managed with a multidisciplinary treatment approach. Prior to developing a specialized treatment plan to address your pain, it is important to determine the cause. The sciatic nerve is generally compressed or inflamed when you have sciatica. The treatment plan will involve correcting the alignment of your back and pelvis, to reduce the pressure on the nerve. Treatment will also include the releasing of the tight muscles where the nerve runs and most of all decreasing the compression on the sciatic nerve by using spinal mobilization, massage therapy, laser and spinal decompression. Non-surgical spinal decompression is a method a physiotherapist uses effectively to treat sciatica. Using a motorized traction table, the lower back and the sciatic nerve roots are relieved of pressure. The computerized table relieves pressure on your spine by gradually stretching it and decreasing the compression on the sciatic nerve.
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How long does Sciatica last for?
Usually, the pain gets better in 4-6 weeks, however, it can take slightly longer.
Does Sciatica Go Away on Its Own?
Sciatica can sometimes go away on its own, but often it requires physiotherapy intervention.
What happens if sciatica is left untreated?
If left untreated, sciatica may result in lingering symptoms that will get worse and may be harder to fix. If sciatica is not properly managed, it may become chronic in nature.
About Howard Morris Reg. P.T
Howard Morris is a registered physiotherapist with the Allied Physiotherapy Health Group. He treats patients with various musculoskeletal conditions using patient education, progressive exercise therapy, manual therapy, muscle trigger point release and muscle energy techniques to restore full function. His treatment philosophy involves providing his patients with the know-how to self-manage their injuries. He aims to provide his patients with quality treatment and care that exceeds expectations.