Sciatica is a very common complaint but few people actually know what causes it, and what can be done to help it – even in those that have it.
Today’s post is to help clear that up.
What is Sciatica
The answer to this is probably not what you were expecting: Sciatica isn’t a diagnosis, it is a symptom. It is a symptom or an underlying condition (more on this below)
Sciatica is referred pain from compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve somewhere along its path. Irritation, inflammation or direct compression to the sciatic nerve sends confuses the brain and causes this referred pain and sometimes change in sensation and pins and needles.
The pain can be felt anywhere from your backside to your heel and foot – anywhere along the path of the nerve.
It is important to see a health professional for a clear diagnosis, as when you know what is causing sciatica, then it can be more effectively treated
What causes sciatica
The most common causes of sciatica are:
Spinal stenosis: Narrowing of the spine due to degeneration and aging
Herniated lumbar disc: Probably the most commonly know cause
Spondylolisthesis: Where a stress fracture causes one vertebra to move on another, causing nerve impingement
Piriformis syndrome: The nerve can get irritated as it runs under or through the piriformis muscle in your backside
Sacroiliac joint pain: Irritation of the SI Joint can also cause irritation of and pain down the L5 nerve root (which forms part of the sciatic nerve)
But other issues in the hip can also mimic sciatic pain but don’t often refer below the knee – so important to get a diagnosis.
What are the treatments for sciatica
Most cases resolve without the need for surgery and surgery should be the last resort, unless there is a serious neural compromise.
Treatment revolves around easing pain and secondary symptoms, caused by the underlying issue.
1. Pain relief: This can be through the use of ice, heat, regular movement and painkillers as prescribed by your GP
2. Treatment: There are a number of modalities that can be used here, including manual therapy, massage and muscle releases
3. Rehab exercises: This is the most important. The right exercises will not only help address the underlying cause once diagnosed but also ensure muscle activation and strength is regained to lessen the chance of recurrence.
So don’t put up with back pain or sciatica. Book in with a health professional and get a thorough assessment so that you know what is going on and what is going to help it get better.