Physiotherapy treatment has been shown to help with pain from sciatica by reducing inflammation and relieving muscle tension. The aim is to relieve the symptoms of sciatica so that patients can get back to the activities they enjoy without pain. Our physiotherapists will work with you one-on-one to find out what’s causing your sciatica and how best to treat it. Physiotherapy treatment consists of non-invasive techniques to relieve muscle tension and promote healing.
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 Physiotherapy help me?
- Reducing your pain in the short term with hands on, gentle nerve stretching, and spinal mobility work to reduce the sensitivity of the irritated nerve.
- Ensuring long term results and minimising the chance of your symptoms returning by completing a personalised rehabilitation plan. There’s a structured approach to ensuring we address sciatica properly (see the early, mid and late stage exercises below). Getting you pain free is our first priority, but it’s our attention to detail in helping you rehabilitate through the entire journey that ensures our results are unrivalled and your symptoms don’t return.
- Ensuring you have no lingering weakness that will affect your function and quality of life moving forward. With moderate to severe sciatica symptoms, once your pain resolves sometimes there’s often some left over weakness that make your usual tasks harder than they’d normally be. To get back to your normal self, this needs to be addressed. We’ll help identify what’s lacking, and give you the knowledge to fix it.
- Advice and education on positioning, posturing and the level activity suitable for you to allow your symptoms to settle and keep you comfortable whilst our treatment is having the desired effect. We’ll also give you the advice you need to gradually build back up to the activity level you want in a safe and non-detrimental way.
A big part of your rehabilitation once your initial symptoms have settled is ensuring there’s no residual sensitivity of your nerve, whilst working on the strength of your lumbar spine, pelvis and leg muscles.
Early stage Sciatica relief exercises/stretches
Mid stage Sciatica relief exercises/stretches
Click here for MID STAGE exercises.
Late stage Sciatica relief exercises/stretches
Click here for LATE STAGE exercises.
You can take the first step to resolving your sciatica issue by booking online here 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 physiotherapists. We’d love to help you!