Sciatica is commonly treated in physiotherapy practice, but what is it really? People often report that they “have sciatica”, however, sciatica is merely a symptom, not a diagnosis. These symptoms involve pain, pins and needles, loss of sensation, and/or numbness as a result of sciatic nerve irritation. These symptoms can travel from the spine reaching anywhere from the buttock, back of the thigh, calf and into the foot. Weakness in the lower extremity can also be a sign of sciatic nerve irritation.
The sciatic nerve is the biggest nerve in the body; it branches off the spinal cord as nerve roots at the lower vertebrae and tailbone (L4-5 and S1-3) travelling down the back of the thigh further branching off as two other nerves, the tibial and peroneal nerves. The sciatic nerve stimulates muscles of the posterior thigh and, through its 2 branches, muscles below the knee down to the foot. It provides sensation to the side of the back of the thigh, lower leg, calf, ankle and foot.
Compression or sciatic nerve root impingement (i.e. a pinched nerve) can cause localized pain in your low back or can cause pain anywhere along the course of the nerve. Hence why symptoms can be felt in the buttock or foot. Nerve root impingement can be thought of like squeezing a hose, if the hose is getting pinched at the top (i.e. the nerve root exiting the spine), it will affect the water supply to the rest of the hose (down the leg). This is more formally known as lumbar radiculopathy.
The sciatic nerve can be irritated by a number of things. Lifestyle and physiological predispositions such as our daily activities, sports, work tasks, and changes that occur with age can cause sciatic nerve irritation. If your work or sporting activities require repeatedly arching backward, then there could be a structural change in your spine causing nerve root compression. Whereas age related changes can cause crowding of the nerve roots (pinched nerve). A Health Care professional can help identify the cause of your pain and recommend ways to manage it.
Although symptoms of sciatica can be debilitating for some, the nerve irritation will settle down with appropriate care. Once the cause of sciatica is determined, a physiotherapist can tailor a personalized treatment plan to your needs. This would include specific exercises and positions that can greatly help you manage the pain. Lifestyle change is also very important in the recovery of sciatic related symptoms. Learning to manage your symptoms takes persistence and patience.
There are some signs of more serious issues, in which you should seek immediate medical care, which include:
- You have a loss of bowel and bladder control (go to ER, this is a medical emergency)
- Pain travels into both legs
- You have pins and needles in your groin or genitals
- You have numbness in your back passage or buttocks
- You have consistent night pain
If you are fed up with your sciatica symptoms, we suggest seeing your health care professional for an assessment so you can start learning solutions to help you get out of pain and rise up to better health.
For more information or to book an appointment call 705-380-3312 or visit the website. Surge Physiotherapy is located at 33 King William Street, Suite 204, in Huntsville. Office hours are flexible with evening appointments available (three times per week). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andi is passionate about helping you achieve your goals and get back to doing the things you love. Whether it is returning to running, lifting your grandkids, or recovering from surgery, Andi combines her multifaceted background in manual therapy, education kinesiology and exercise rehabilitation to provide individualized treatment. She believes that movement is medicine and enjoys sharing this philosophy with her clients.
Andi is a Muskoka native who completed her Master of Science in Physical Therapy at the University of Toronto in 2017. She received her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science in 2010 and her Master of Education in 2012 from Auburn University Montgomery in Alabama where she was a member of the varsity soccer team.
When she is not working in the clinic, Andi enjoys giving back to her community through volunteering and also enjoys running, playing soccer, snowboarding, and baking.