What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is a condition we often hear about from family, friends or co-workers. You commonly hear it feeling like shooting leg pain or a jolt down the leg. It’s normally given quite a serious undertone with a degree of fear attached to it. The question is: what is Sciatica and what can be done about it?

‘Sciatica’ or ‘Radicular Pain’ is a term used to describe a pain that is produced from an irritated nerve exiting your spine. There are many reasons for why a nerve may be irritated, the most common reason being a bulged or herniated disk. Radicular pain can occur in the neck and radiate in the arms or head, in the upper back and radiate around the chest, or in the lower back and radiate into the hips or legs and feet.

What is important to understand is that it’s the irritated nerve which is the problem, not the herniated disk specifically. Most people have multiple bulging disks in their backs and have never experienced radicular pain. Furthermore, patients who recover from radicular pain often still have the disk herniation present.

How Physiotherapists treat it:

  1. We figure out what your pain likes. Radicular pain is less like a roadmap and more like a puzzle. We need to figure out its tendencies and address each of these factors.
  2. We get it moving! Often the reason your nerve is irritated is that it is being pressed on by something that it doesn’t recognise. Movement helps open and recognise the affected region which calms down pain. Initially, we start with gentle movements and later a tailored exercise program.
  3. We get you back to normal. Once your pain has settled, often there are secondary issues such as body stiffness and weakness which need to be addressed to get you back to normal.

Radicular pain can be a frightening experience, it can be very painful and seemingly unending. Rest assured a lot can be done, you don’t need to be afraid your pain, we are here to help.