Sciatica is a very misunderstood neurological condition associated with back pain. In order to improve that understanding it’s essential to have knowledge of the sciatic nerve itself.
The sciatic nerve is one of the most essential nerves within the human body. It originates in the lower portion of the spine, branching off into different nerves as it runs down the back of both legs.
Many people may experience ‘sciatic like’ symptoms in their lifetime, through postural or occupational related reasons, through pregnancy, or long periods of inactivity like sitting for a prolonged time.
Sciatica can very commonly be misdiagnosed. There are many other reasons for the symptoms you may experience with ‘Piriformis Syndrome’ being one. (Keep an eye out for a blog soon on this.)
What are the symptoms of Sciatica?
You may have sciatica if you experience the following:
- Tingling sensation: much like pins and needles from your back down to your toes (sometimes it doesn't always reach the toes and may only present to your knee)
- Pain: stabbing, burning or shooting pain that may be constant or intermittent
- A feeling of weakness
It is worth visiting your GP if your symptoms constantly present down both of your legs.
What are the causes of Sciatica?
Common causes include:
- The ‘bulging’ of one of your spinal discs: the soft cushioning in-between vertebrae can bulge and begin to touch the nerve causing irritation.
- Spinal injuries
- An injury to your back that effects surrounding structures
- Purely muscle tension that narrows the space of the route the nerve takes through the body.
Treatment for sciatica
When treating sciatica through soft tissue management, we tend to treat the whole area. Therefore, your therapist will most likely work through your lower back, muscles in your bottom and the backs of your legs.
Treatment will be tailored to your needs and your tolerance. Usually we use long, slow strokes that enable relaxation. We will work through passive and assisted stretches that again allow the tension in your muscles to ease.
Exercises/Tips/Insights to help with Sciatica
Sciatica usually gets better over time and may only last a short while (4-6 weeks). However you may find that it lasts a longer or a shorter time.
· Try to continue with your normal routine and activities
· Regularly stretch your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings
· Heat regularly to keep your muscles warm and relaxed
· You may wish to use painkillers - however try to avoid constantly masking pain
· Have a massage: soft tissue therapy and manual therapy will help to release muscle tension that will be irritating the nerve.
Avoid being seated or lying down for long periods: being active and regularly moving will not harm or exacerbate your symptoms.
Give these below stretches a try, holding for 30 seconds each time:
Lie on your back and bend your knee to 90 degrees. Place your ankle across your knee. To make the stretch stronger, pull your ankle towards you, while pushing away with the opposite knee (the side getting stretched). You should feel a stretch in your bottom.
Lie on your back and bend your knee to 90 degrees. Place your ankle across your opposite knee and pull your knee towards your chest to feel a stretch in your bottom. You can also use a towel to assist you.
Does this sound familiar?
If you have sciatic pain don’t delay any longer than you may have already. We’re always happy to have a chat and provide you with more information.