We often get patients coming in to see us saying that they have seen someone and they’ve been told that they have sciatica, and they need it treating please. What most people don’t know is that sciatica is a symptom, not an actual diagnosis – it tells us that the sciatic nerve is irritated but gives no clue as to what by!
Sciatica is usually caused by compression or irritation of the nerves that are in the lower back – from here, the nerves then run down the leg, protesting at being squashed further up – and often giving excruciating pain, numbness, pins and needles or weakness both down the leg and into the foot.
The key to treating sciatica is to work out what is upsetting the nerve in the first place – this is where your physio comes in. The spine is extremely complex and there are a multitude of different issues that can cause it, but we’ll look at the more common causes here.
1. Disc problems – if you imagine a disc to be like a circle of jelly between your vertebrae, if it gets too squashed, it herniates or prolapses – this happens in about 90% of sciatica cases.
2. A spinal stenosis is where the channel that carries the spinal cord has narrowed so squashes it. This can be caused by a disc problem, or by inflammation or bony spurs.
3. Pregnancy can also cause problems – although thankfully this normally disappears when your baby is born! There are things that can be done in the interim to help though if you’re struggling.
4. A muscle deep in your buttock called Piriformis (that sits over the sciatic nerve) can get tight or knotted and compress the nerve.
Once your physio has worked out what is upsetting the nerve, they can then treat it – there are a variety of techniques that can be used, ranging from manual hands-on therapy (which we specialise in), mobilisations, traction, acupuncture, as well as home exercises and pain management techniques.
We always advise that keeping moving is the best option – seizing up isn’t going to help! Painkillers can help things along too – you can always ask your pharmacist if you need advice on these.
Once you’re better, you then need to stay better! Regular exercise such as Pilates can really help to strengthen the muscles that support your spine.
At Physiofusion, our Physios run Pilates classes so you know that you’re getting exercises which are specifically tailored to your needs and ability (or previous injury). If you want more details, then please give us a call on 01524 874 649 or request details from Ask A Physio.