Sciatica can be incredibly frustrating and debilitating. If you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from this condition, don’t despair – there are things you can do to lessen the pain and improve your quality of life. In this post, we’ll discuss what sciatica is, provide tips for managing your symptoms, and share advice from other sufferers on how they cope with this condition. Let’s get started!

 

Sciatica – Don’t Let Back Pain Win!

Sciatica is a commonly used term to describe pain that originates from the sciatic nerve. This is a large nerve that extends from the lower back, through the buttock and then down the back of your leg to your foot. Associated symptoms may also include numbness and tingling, burning or shooting pain down the legs, and in some cases even weakness. It is often caused by mechanical irritation and/or inflammation of the nerve exiting the spine as a result of an injury in the lower back. The most common being an injured disc. 

For some people, having sciatica means having a few days of irritating pain. For others, it can be prolonged periods of pain and difficulty with activities. We can help with treating your sciatica. Firstly by identifying the likely cause of sciatic nerve pain. Secondly by implementing specific treatment to reduce pressure on the nerve and usually improve sciatica symptoms. 

Causes of Sciatica

The most common causes of sciatic pain are discussed below. It is important to understand that often more than one factor is at play. For example, you may have a disc bulge which is causing mechanical irritation of the nerve but also have muscle tension in your back/buttock as a result of inflammatory processes around the nerve. Similarly, you may have had a recent injury which has aggravated an existing degenerative changes in your spine adding to both irritation and inflammation around the exiting nerve. Regardless of the cause, we can offer specific treatment to help alleviate your symptoms. 

Diagram of sciatica pain

Disc Bulge

A bulging disc occurs when the gelatinous material between your bony vertebrae is compressed and mechanically irritates the nearby nerve. This can cause pain, numbness or tingling along the nerve pathway. In mild cases this can improve over weeks, whereas in severe cases this may take months to improve. In rare cases some injections or surgical procedures may be necessary, if the bugle is not responding to conservative management. 

Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative changes are a normal part of aging. However sometimes these changes happen earlier than they should due to our lifestyle choices (i.e., diet, exercise, smoking). As we age discs gradually shrink, leading to loss of height between each vertebrae (spinal compression). These changes decrease shock absorbing capabilities which puts greater load through our spine during activities like walking.

Lumbar Stenosis

Lumbar stenosis occurs when there is bony narrowing at one or more levels within the lower back. Reducing available space for spinal nerves as they exit our spine causing those nerves to become irritated leading to low back pain that radiates down our legs (sciatica). In severe cases surgery may be indicated. However often significant symptom relief can be achieved with conservative care prior to considering this option. 

Pregnancy

One-third of pregnant women experience low back pain at some stage during their pregnancy due largely hormonal changes. These allow ligaments throughout their body including their pelvis to loosen making them susceptible to instability and musculoskeletal injuries like sciatica. While many cases will resolve following pregnancy, you may still be more susceptible to these injuries after birth.

Don’t let Sciatic pain win! Talk to your physiotherapist if you are suffering from sciatic pains. Your physiotherapist can develop a treatment plan to reduce your pain and get you back on your feet as quickly as possile. Don’t wait – make an appointment with a physiotherapist today.

 

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