At some point in your life, you’ve probably experienced some level of lower back pain. There are a number of causes for this, one of which may be a condition known as sciatica. Sciatica affects the nerves running from your lower back down to your feet. There are a range of treatment options for this condition, though if left untreated, it can cause permanent nerve damage or paralysis in the affected areas.
If you are experiencing pain or tingling sensations in your lower back, hips, thighs or legs, you may have sciatica. To book in for a consultation or for sciatica treatment with one of our experienced physiotherapists in our Brisbane clinic, call us on (07) 3278 1186 or make a booking online.
What is sciatica?
Sciatica is a type of lower back pain that is fairly easy to identify as it relates to the compression or pinching of the sciatic nerve which is the longest nerve in the body. It starts in your lower back and splits to run through your hips, buttocks, legs and feet on both sides.
Sciatic pain is not a diagnosis in and of itself. It is rather a set of symptoms pointing to a condition affecting the integrity of the lumbar (lower) spine. While this pain can be relieved and treated, you’ll also need to identify the reason the pain is there.
Common causes of sciatica
The most common causes of sciatica include:
- Lumbar disc herniation – extrusion of a spinal disc in the lower back compressing the nerve root; also referred to as pinched nerve, slipped disc, bulging disc or protruding disc.
- Degenerative disc disease – the discs in the lower back undergo the most motion and are susceptible to wear and tear over time. Excess motion can cause irritation of the sciatic nerve roots.
- Spinal stenosis – when the spinal canal narrows in the lower back, nerve roots may become pinched. This can at times be the result of a bone spur.
- Lumbar subluxation – an altered position of the vertebra in the lower back may result in the functional loss and nerve irritation.
- Other causes – spinal tumour, infections in or around the lumbar spine, pregnancy, irritation of the nerve from an adjacent bone or muscle, internal bleeding and injury.
What are symptoms of sciatica?
Sciatica causes pain that usually begins in the lower back and spreads through the buttock on one side and down the leg, occasionally reaching the foot. The pain varies depending on the cause of the sciatic pain. In some cases it can present as a dull aching or burning sensation though in others it can be a sharp, shooting and unbearable pain.
Sensations of tingling, numbness and muscle weakness in the affected leg can also be linked to sciatica. It is very important to seek treatment in these situations as long term nerve compression can lead to permanent nerve damage and potential paralysis of the affected leg.
Other indicators of sciatica may include:
- Burning or tingling sensations
- Shooting pain that makes standing difficult
- Pain in the rear of the leg that becomes worse when in a seated position
- Numbness, weakness or difficulty moving the leg or foot
Treatments for sciatica
Physiotherapy is a great, evidence-based treatment for sciatica which is mainly focused on the reduction of pain, restoration of movement, strengthening weakened muscles and reducing tension.
At Graceville Physio, we often see sciatica as being a result of pressure on the sciatic nerve. As such, physiotherapy treatment involves removing the pressure caused by poorly moving spinal joints as well as any muscular tension in the lower spine that may be present.
The following techniques are used to treat sciatica:
- Spinal mobilisations
- Trigger point therapy
- Dry needling
- Massage therapy
- Stretching any tight muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments
- Advice on how to change things in your daily routine to minimise pressure and irritation of the sciatic nerve
- Home stretches and exercises to assist in aiding your recovery
- Correction and re-education of movement and muscle activity
Risks of leaving sciatic pain untreated
Any condition affecting the nerves is always best suited to prompt treatment in order to avoid permanent nerve damage and, in severe cases, paralysis of affected limbs.
If you have been diagnosed with sciatica or if you’re experiencing pain or tingling sensations in your lower back, hips, thighs or legs, do not hesitate to take action. To book in for a consultation or for sciatica treatment with one of our experienced physiotherapists in Graceville, call us on (07) 3278 1186 or make a booking online.