What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is an umbrella term used to describe pain that travels down the back of the leg, as low down as the feet and toes. There can also be symptoms such as altered sensation, tingling and muscle weakness.
What causes Sciatica?
The nerves that supply your leg originate from your spinal cord, which exit through little spaces in the side of your spine. These small nerves (called nerve roots) join together and form the large nerve known as the sciatic nerve. It is this nerve that then passes through the buttock and down into your leg.
Sciatica can be caused by:
1) Compression and irritation to the nerve roots close to your spine by issues like bulging discs or inflammation causing increased pressure on the nerves.
2) Compression and irritation of the sciatic nerve which passes through your buttocks and travels down your leg. This can be caused by a muscle irritating the sciatic nerve as passes through it (this is known as piriformis syndrome).
Essentially, sciatica is an irritation of the nerves in your spine, or in your buttock.
What are the symptoms of sciatica?
The hallmark symptom of sciatica is pain, the type of pain can vary: it may be sharp, feel like electric shocks, discomfort or numbness. There can also be sensations like tingling and feeling of weakness in your leg, ankle and/or foot. The pain is typically situated in the buttock and lower back region but can extend down into your hamstring, calf and feet.
These can be aggravated by coughing or sneezing, moving from sitting to standing, prolonged sitting and standing.
How is sciatica diagnosed?
Sciatica is diagnosed by a cluster of findings in your history and physical assessment by your physiotherapist. Your therapist will carry out a number of physical tests to determine the origin of your sciatic pain, such as muscle strength tests, nerve mobility tests and lumbar range of motion tests.
We will also want to know if you’ve had an injury, fever, problems controlling your bowels or bladder, previous cancers and whether you’ve been losing weight without trying. The answers to these questions are important because if these symptoms are present, the cause of sciatica could be a serious condition, such as a bone fracture, infection or cancer.
Do I need a scan?
The majority of cases do not require any sort of imaging, and resolves within a period of 6-8 weeks with targeted physiotherapy intervention. However if symptoms are not settling beyond 8 weeks of physiotherapy intervention it may require further medial investigation and management.
How can my Physio help me?
We listen carefully to ensure nothing is missed, will thoroughly assess you and determine the contributing factors to your pain to ensure an accurate diagnosis is made. From there, depending on what we find we may perform some hands on therapy such as massage, dry needling, lumbar mobilisations to provide immediate relief of your symptoms. You will be provided with exercises and advice to help manage your pain at home, and a plan to get you back to 100% and back to what you love doing as soon as possible!
A big part of your rehabilitation once your initial symptoms have settled is working on the strength of your lumbar spine and surrounding muscles. This will ensure you back is able to cope with the demands placed on it and prevent the issue from resurfacing in the future.
You can take the first step to resolving your sciatica issue by booking online to see one of our expert physiotherapists today!
Alternatively if you are unsure about what to do next, please don’t hesitate to give the clinic a call on 8490 0777 and have a chat to one of our friendly physios. We’d love to help and provide advice regarding what to do next.