Sciatica is a set of symptoms due to general compression or irritation of one of five spinal nerve roots that give rise to each sciatic nerve, or by compression or irritation of either or both sciatic nerves.
Sciatica usually affects one side of the lower body. Often, pain extends from the lower lumbar spine through the back of the thigh and down through the leg. The pain may also extend to the foot or toes.
Sciatica pain can often be severe and debilitating. Alternatively, it may be infrequent and irritating, but with the potential to get worse.
Causes of sciatica
Sciatica is most commonly caused by:
- A protruding or herniated (torn) disc in the lower lumbar spine
- Mechanical stress in the lower lumbar spine
- Lumbar spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back)
- Degenerative disc disease (breakdown of discs, which act as cushions between the vertebrae)
- Spondylolisthesis (a condition in which one vertebra slips forward over another one)
Symptoms of sciatica
- Lower back pain
- Pain in the buttock or leg that is worse when sitting
- Burning or tingling down the leg
- Weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg and/or foot
- A constant pain on one side of the buttock
- A shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand up
Symptoms of disc-related sciatica
- Increased pain with coughing and sneezing
- Pain aggravated by prolonged sitting, standing or walking
- Pain relieved by walking a short distance
Seek immediate medical attention for symptoms of progressive lower extremity weakness and/or loss of bladder or bowel control.
Diagnosis of sciatica
In diagnosing sciatica, your osteopath will take your case history and perform an examination of the back, hips and legs in order to test for strength, flexibility, sensation and reflexes. In some cases it may be advisable to see a special MRI scan of your back to show whether or not there is a specific disc injury.
Your osteopath or practitioner will discuss this with you and may refer you back to your GP.
Osteopathic treatment for sciatica
Osteopathic treatment for sciatica focuses on relieving pressure from the lumbar spine, by addressing the mechanical re-alignment of the lumbar sacral area in conjunction with the rest of your body.
To do this your osteopath will work on many areas of the body and may advise on posture and your daily life activities. You will often be given exercises as part of your longer term care plan to help prevent further acute episodes of sciatic pain.
More severe cases may require the use of anti-inflammatory drugs and some may require more interventional techniques such as steroidal injections or in extreme cases surgery.
Please get in touch if you have any questions or would like to arrange a treatment.