Sciatica Pain

What is Sciatica

The sciatica nerve is the longest and widest nerve in the body that starts in the lower back and runs down the pelvis to the back of the legs. The nerve controls the muscles in the lower leg and back of the knee. Sciatica pain is caused when a nerve in the lower back is irritated, inflamed, pinched, or squished. Lumbar radiculopathy is the other names for this condition. The term “Sciatica” is widely used to describe any discomfort that begins in the lower back and travels along the path of the nerve.  With proper treatment, most people who have sciatica get better. But sciatica can cause pain that lasts for a long time.  A Pinched nerve can cause long-term muscle weakness, like “drop foot,” which is when numbness in the foot makes it impossible to 

Sciatica Physiotherapy

walk normally. Sciatica can cause permanent nerve damage, which can make the affected legs lose their sense of touch. Therefore, it is very important to seek medical help immediately.

Causes of Sciatica Pain

  • A disk herniation or slip disc that puts strain on a nerve root is the most prevalent cause of sciatica. A herniated disk occurs in the lower back vertebra and can put pressure on the sciatic nerve. Around 1% to 5% of all Canadians experience a slipped disk at some point in their lives. People who are overweight are more likely to have sciatic pain. Trauma to the lumber spine and spinal canal tumors can lead to Sciatica Pain.
  • Spondylolisthesis is a spinal condition that causes lower back pain. It occurs when one of the vertebrae, the bones of the spine, slips out of place onto the vertebra below it. The extended spinal bone can pinch the sciatic nerve.
  • Osteoarthritis is a condition where bone spurs, which are sharp edges of bone, can form on aging spines and press on the nerves in the lower back.
  • Piriformis syndrome (PS) is a painful musculoskeletal condition characterized by a combination of symptoms, including buttock or hip pain. This can put pressure on and irritate the sciatic nerve. Piriformis syndrome is an uncommon neuromuscular disorder.
  • Cauda equina syndrome is a rare but serious disease that affects the cauda equina, which is a group of nerves at the end of the spinal cord. This syndrome makes the leg hurt, makes the area around the anus numb, and makes it hard to control your bowels and bladder.

Signs and Symptoms

Sciatica usually affects adults and can rarely be seen in kids or teens. The symptoms show up on one side of the body, where the affected nerve root is. The symptoms may come and go, and may vary. Some of the common symptoms are mentioned below:

  • Radiating Pain, burning, or a shock-like sensation in the buttocks, hip, and/or leg
  • Mild tingling in the toes
  • Lower back pain
  • Tingling or numbness in the buttocks, hip, and/or leg.
  • Lack of strength in the hip and/or the leg.
  • Incontinence of the bowels or the bladder
  • Sexual impotence or dysfunction

In general, symptoms such as weakness as well as issues with the bowels, bladder, or sexual function are indicators of more extensive nerve or spine involvement that, if not addressed, may have long-term implications.

Dos and Don’ts

The following should be considered when treating for Sciatica:

  • Avoid positions/ activities that exacerbate pain.
  • Maintain correct posture.
  • Use proper lifting techniques.
  • Avoid prolonged sitting or standing.
  • Doing exercises that increase sciatic nerve and hamstring length.
  • Doing exercises to increase core strength and add stability to spine.
  • Find the most comfortable sleeping position

Treat Sciatica with Physiotherapy

Physical therapy and exercise are typically first-line treatments for relieving, treating, and preventing sciatica pain.  Physiotherapy is a natural and non-invasive treatment that aims in strengthening your tissues in the lower back, pelvis, buttocks, thighs and legs. It aids in restoring pain-free movements and the function of lumbar spine and sacroiliac joint. 

Other than the mobilization or manipulative treatment, various modalities including but not limited to Therapeutic Ultrasound, Electrotherapy, Acupuncture, and Mechanical traction are used. Few of the mobilization or manipulative techniques used are mentioned below:

  • Motions and stretches A physiotherapist can assist you in performing adequate stretch exercises. They can help strengthen and mobilize tissues in the lower back, pelvis, abdomen, buttocks, and thighs and restore functional movement patterns that don’t hurt. Also, they encourage neurologic changes to relieve pain, stop future pain flare-ups, and lessen the fear that comes with moving.
  • Flexion and Extension-Back Exercises that promote spine movements, such as extension and flexion, can help reduce pain. Before prescribing specific directional exercises, a physical therapist often assesses a person’s directional preference, as these are tailored to the individual patient and their symptoms.
  • The McKenzie Method (mechanical diagnostic and therapy) is a technique that comprises a sequence of active directional motions to identify and treat a pain source in the spine, muscles, and/or joints.
  • Strengthening exercises include bodyweight and resistance exercises to strengthen the muscles of the abdomen, low back, hips, and legs and mobilization of spinal segment that help to relieve pain while simultaneously increasing the mobility of the spine 

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