Lady with pain from sciatica

Physiotherapists can effectively treat sciatic nerve pain through techniques like spinal mobility exercises, targeted stretching, postural correction, and strengthening of the core and glutes to take pressure off the irritated nerve.

Understanding Sciatica

Have you ever heard about Sciatica? It’s a term that’s often used to describe pain that you feel down the path of the back, buttock, and leg, reaching even as far down as the feet and toes. Typically, the culprit behind this discomfort is an irritation of the sciatic nerve, usually located at the level of your buttock, or an agitation of the nerve roots in your lower back which give rise to the sciatic nerve. Some individuals may also experience additional symptoms such as a change in sensation, tingling, or even muscle weakness.

Interestingly,  you don’t necessarily have to experience lower back pain to suffer from sciatica. Indeed, it’s possible to have symptoms and leg pain in your lower limb, without any pain in the back. 

OnePointHealth are committed to providing solutions to enhance your pain-free lifestyle, and we believe in empowering you with the knowledge to improve your overall well-being.

How long does Sciatica persist?

Typically, with the correct physiotherapy approach, most instances of sciatica tend to resolve within a 4-8 week period. However, in scenarios where the symptoms are more intense, featuring numbness, tingling, and associated muscle weakness, the recovery timeline might be extended. 

What triggers Sciatica?

Surprisingly, sciatica often develops gradually, rather than starting at a specific moment. A study from 2007 pinpointed physically demanding jobs, like manual labour and truck driving, as common triggers for sciatica. This is particularly applicable for individuals required to bend their spine repeatedly, exposing them to a higher risk of developing sciatica.

The nerves servicing your leg originate from your spinal cord, exiting through small spaces at the sides of your lower back. These minor nerves, referred to as nerve roots, join together to form the large sciatic nerve. This nerve then descends through the pelvis into the buttock, where it passes through the muscles in your bottom and finally travels down into your leg.

Common culprits of sciatica include:

  1. Compression and irritation of nerve roots near your spine by a herniated disc or inflammation leading to increased nerve pressure. Other spinal conditions such as spondylolisthesis or spinal stenosis can also increase pressure on the nerve roots and trigger sciatica.
  2. Compression and irritation of the sciatic nerve as it passes through your buttocks and down your leg. This can be caused by a muscle irritating the sciatic nerve as it travels through.

What are the Symptoms and signs of Sciatica?

The defining symptom of sciatica is pain, but its manifestation can vary:

  • The pain can be sharp, resembling electric shocks, or it may be discomfort or numbness
  • There might also be sensations like tingling and a feeling of weakness in your leg, ankle, and/or foot.
  • The pain is generally located in the buttock and lower back region but can extend down into your hamstring, calf, and feet.
  • Symptoms typically affect one side rather than both legs. In rare instances, leg pain can occur in both legs.
  • Lower back pain can also be a symptom.

These can be exacerbated by coughing or sneezing, transitioning from sitting to standing, or prolonged periods of sitting, standing, or lying down.

How is Sciatica diagnosed?

At OnePointHealth, we diagnose sciatica through a combination of your medical history and a physical assessment by our skilled physiotherapists. Our practitioners will perform a series of physical examinations, including muscle strength tests, nerve mobility tests, and lumbar range of motion tests to identify the root cause of your sciatic discomfort.

Do I need an imaging test?

In most cases, imaging isn’t necessary as the majority of sciatica cases resolve within 4-8 weeks with targeted physiotherapy intervention. However, if symptoms persist beyond 8 weeks despite physiotherapy, additional medical investigation and management may be needed.

How can Physiotherapy aid my recovery?

In the initial stages, our sciatica treatment emphasizes pain reduction through manual therapy, gentle nerve stretching, and spinal mobility exercises to desensitize the irritated nerve. Typically, this results in significant relief and symptom reduction within 1-4 visits.

To ensure lasting results and prevent symptom recurrence, we design a personalized rehabilitation plan for you. Achieving a pain-free state is our first priority, but it’s our meticulous approach to your complete rehabilitation journey that helps to achieve the desired results and prevents symptom recurrence.

This includes strengthening exercises targeting muscles supporting your lower back and buttock, crucial for your body’s capacity to handle daily demands and recreational activities.

 A  long-term management plan will also incorporate targeted nerve mobility exercises and spinal mobility exercises to enhance the movement of your affected nerves and spine.

We aim to eliminate any residual weakness that could impact your functionality and quality of life going forward. Sometimes, after moderate to severe sciatica symptoms subside, there could be some remaining weakness that makes your regular tasks more challenging. Addressing this is key to regaining your usual self, and a thorough Physiotherapy assessment can help identify what needs to be improved.

We provide valuable advice and education on optimal positioning, posture, and activity levels suitable for you, allowing your symptoms to subside while keeping you comfortable as our treatment takes effect. Additionally, we guide you to safely and gradually return to your desired activity level without causing further harm.

Ready to tackle your sciatica pain head-on? Schedule your first session with our expert physiotherapists at OnePointHealth.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Sciatica typically emerges over time rather than from a specific incident. It’s often provoked by physically strenuous jobs that require repetitive spinal bending. Other common causes include compression and irritation of the nerve roots near the spine due to issues like a herniated disc, inflammation, spondylolisthesis, or spinal stenosis. In simpler terms, sciatica arises from irritation of the nerves in your lower back or buttock.

The main symptom of sciatica is a varied type of pain, which can be sharp, akin to electric shocks, or manifest as discomfort or numbness. Additional symptoms may include a tingling sensation and muscle weakness in your leg, ankle, and/or foot. Typically, the pain is concentrated in the buttock and lower back area but can radiate down to your hamstring, calf, and feet. Symptoms usually affect one side, and in rare cases, both legs can be affected. Sciatica can also present as lower back pain and can be aggravated by various movements or prolonged postures.

No, you do not need a referral to see a physiotherapist for sciatica treatment. Physiotherapists are primary healthcare providers, which means you can book an appointment directly. However, if you have a complex medical history or if your insurance requires it, a referral might be necessary. Always best to check with your healthcare provider or insurance company to be sure. At OnePointHealth, our experts are ready to assist you on your journey to recovery.