It happens to everyone at least a few times. You get up and you feel the ache in your back, the sharp shooting pain down your leg, and the pins and needles/ numbness underneath your foot. This may very well be the dreaded sciatica causing you grief.
Sciatica is a generic term referring to the nerves that make up the sciatic nerve becoming irritated. This sciatic nerve originates in your lower back and travels down the leg to your foot. Sciatica is not a diagnosis in itself. It is a symptom of an underlying condition or back issue.
There are a number of causes of sciatica. This may be due to:
• A degenerative spine/ arthritic changes.
• Slipped or herniated discs
• Spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal
• Muscle imbalances, such as tight hamstrings/ tight piriformis (known as piriformis syndrome)
• Muscle weakness, particularly your gluteus muscles (buttock muscles), and your core.
It is important to get an accurate diagnosis for the cause of your sciatica by your physiotherapist. Based on the assessment, your physiotherapist will decide on the most appropriate treatment. There are a variety of ways to manage sciatica, from having your spine mobilised/ manipulated, doing stretches and strengthening exercises, acupuncture, applying heat to relax the muscle, taking the appropriate pain medication and more.
Sciatica can really be a pain… in the leg! There are however a number of ways to treat sciatica, and it is therefore worth giving your physiotherapist a call prior to thinking about steroid injections or surgical procedures.