Sciatica is a common type of pain caused by compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve.The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body, going from the pelvis, through the buttocks, down the legs to the feet.
Having a slipped disc in the back is a most common cause of sciatica, but sometimes doctors do not find an obvious cause of the pain.
Common symptoms of sciatica include:
Pain in the buttock or leg that is worse when sitting
Burning or tingling down the leg
Weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg or foot
A constant pain on one side of the buttock
A shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand up
What causes sciatica?
Sciatica is caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve. A slipped disc is the most common cause of sciatica.
Additional common causes of sciatica include:
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)
Other things that may make your back pain worse include being overweight, not exercising regularly, wearing high heels, or sleeping on a mattress that is too soft.
PHASE I – Pain Relief & Protection
Managing your pain. Pain is the main reason that you seek treatment for sciatica. In truth, it was actually the final symptom that you developed and should be the first symptom to improve.
Managing your inflammation. Inflammation is a normal part of your healing process post-injury. But, excessive inflammation can be the main cause of your sciatica.
Please contact your physiotherapist or doctor for their professional opinion.
PHASE II – Restoring Normal Flexibility, Posture & Strength
As your pain and inflammation settles, your physiotherapist will turn their attention to restoring your normal back joint range of motion and resting muscle tension, lower limb muscle flexibility and posture.
Your physiotherapist will assess your muscle recruitment pattern and prescribe the best exercises for you specific to your needs. They may recommend that you undertake an ultrasound guided exercise program where you can view your deep core muscle contractions on a monitor.
PhysioWorks has developed a Back Pain Core Stabilisation Program to assist their sciatica patients to regain normal core muscle control. Other more advanced programs can include stability exercises and equipment such as a Swiss exercise ball. Please ask your physio for their advice.
Swimming and hydrotherapy exercises are beneficial in early injury repair due to lesser body-weight in the buoyancy of water. This allows more movement without causing pain.
PHASE III – Restoring Full Function & Dynamic Control
The next stage of your rehabilitation is aimed at safely returning you to your desired activities. Everyone has different demands will determine what specific treatment goals you need to achieve. Your physiotherapist is the best person to guide your rehabilitation.
PHASE IV – Preventing a Recurrence
Sciatica does have a tendency to return. The main reason it is thought to recur is due to insufficient rehabilitation.
Fine tuning your back mobility and core control and learning self-management techniques will ultimately help you to achieve your goal of safely returning to your previous sporting or leisure activities without sciatica.
Exercise is like cleaning your teeth. Exercise prevents problems.