- A degenerating, bulging, or herniated disk in the lower back causing inflammation or directly pushing on the roots of the sciatic nerve.
- Compression along any part of the sciatic nerve after it has left the spine (ie where it travels through muscles in the buttocks)
- A boney growth or spur on the spine
- A Narrowing of the normal hole in the spine where the spinal cord and nerves travel (known as spinal stenosis)
Compression or irritation to the sciatic nerve can cause inflammation, pain and often some numbness in the affected leg.
Pain associated with sciatica can be severe, but will usually resolve with conservative treatment. People who have severe sciatica with significant leg weakness or bowel or bladder changes may need a surgical opinion.
Sciatic pain can be felt almost anywhere along the sciatic nerve, but most commonly the pain radiates from your lower back to your glutes on one side and down the back of your leg and into the calf. “Sciatica” can be anything from a mild ache to a sharp, burning, tingling sensation or severe pain. . In some people Sciatic pain may be exaccerbated by coughing or sneezing, and prolonged sitting can aggravate ‘sciatic’ symptoms whilst lying down flat on your back can reduce the pain for some. Some people also have numbness, tingling or muscle weakness in the affected leg or foot. You might have pain in one part of your leg and numbness in another part.
Disc degeneration and compression of the sciatic nerve as it travels through muscles are very common causes of sciatic pain. Sciatic pain caused by disc injuries and muscular tension can often resolve spontaneously or with conservative treatment such as manual osteopathic treatment and a supervised exercise program. Manual therapists such as Osteopaths can use a combination of techniques such as soft tissue massage and release, traction and gentle movement to help reduce sciatic irritation. An exercise physiologist and a clinical Pilates instructor can take you though exercises specifically designed for you and your condition to help reduce irritation, maintain movement and increase your core strength.
Of course we know that prevention is always best. It’s not always possible to prevent sciatica, and sciatica can re-occur. If you have had an episode of sciatic pain in the past the following are recommended
- Exercise regularly. To keep your body and back moving and strong. Consult with an exercise physiologist or healthcare professional who can prescribe specific exercises for you that can help you activate your core muscles and let you know which exercises or activities are good and which you should avoid
- Maintain good posture and movement. Assessing your work area or your desk and chair set up can make a huge difference. Looking at your activities, how you preform them physically and avoiding possible overload to your joints and muscles is essential. Manual therapists such as Osteopaths can give you information on avoiding poor posture in your daily activities and how to move correctly, they can also help to treat existing postural strain to get you moving optimally.