Sciatica is the Latin word for pain down the back of the leg. The term sciatica simply describes the location of pain, therefore it describes the symptom, but not the cause. Sciatica can be caused by several different dysfunctions, but the most common is an entrapment of the nerve in your low back or pelvis. The nerve can be entrapped by a lumbar spine disc lesion, a spinal joint problem or a tight muscle.
The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back down through the buttocks and along the back of each leg which is often aggravated by sitting for prolonged periods. It can be associated with burning, sharp pain, gluteal muscle pain, and tingling and numbness in the back of the leg or the calf. It can also cause weakness and difficulty moving the leg or foot. It can be aggravated by mechanical forces like direct pressure, or it can be aggravated by chemical changes like inflammation.
While sciatica can be extremely painful and uncomfortable, it is rare that permanent nerve damage (tissue damage) results. Most pain is due to inflammation and will improve with appropriate treatment. Nerve pain is caused by a combination of pressure and inflammation on the nerve root, so treatment is focussed on relieving this pressure and inflammation, and taking steps to identify the underlying factors to make sure that the causes of the irritation are dealt with. We will do a thorough assessment to determine the underlying factors by asking you questions and performing a physical exam. Sometimes tests like MRI and CT scans are ordered for sciatic pain. If you have had these done, please bring them to your appointment. If not, your therapist will communicate with you and your doctor if these scans are deemed necessary.
Sciatica is a common problem for manual workers, sedentary office workers and is often present during pregnancy.
At Kamloops Physiotherapy, we will do a thorough assessment to determine the reason that your nerve is irritated and form a treatment plan to decreased the pressure and inflammation and ensure that the cause of the symptoms is addressed so that the pain does not re-occur. The treatment plan often includes:
- Modalities to reduce pain
- Manual (hands on) therapy to restore mobility in restricted areas
- Nerve mobilizing exercise to reduce tension
- Exercise and stretches if appropriate
- Trigger Point Dry Needling or Acupuncture to relieve tight tender bands in the muscle
- Education so that you know how to manage the condition as it resolves and so that you can safely return to your regular activities
We encourage you to contact us to initiate treatment if you are experiencing the symptoms of sciatica. Though chronic symptoms can often be successfully treated, it is easier to resolve your symptoms and stop you from developing compensatory patterns if treatment is started early.