What is sciatica?

 

Sciatica is characterised by pain in the lower back that radiates into the buttocks and down the back of one leg.  The pain occurs when the sciatic nerve is compressed or irritated.  The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body and runs from the lower back, runs through the pelvis and down the back of the leg to the foot.

 

What are the symptoms of sciatica?

Pain usually starts in the lower back and radiates down the back of one leg.  The pain often radiates below the knee and the severity of irritation is proportional to the distance the pain radiates. Pain in the leg is also generally felt more than pain in the back. You may feel numbness or pins and needles of the skin or weakness in the leg.

 

How can sciatica occur?

The risk of sciatica increases with age and height.  Activities that increase the risk include heavy lifting and twisting of the back.  Repeated lifting with poor form or posture can also contribute to sciatica.

There are a number of diagnostic causes for sciatica which your physiotherapist can investigate.  The most common cause is a “slipped disc”.

 

how to treat sciatica

 

How to improve sciatica

Do:

  • Keep moving
  • Use heat packs to reduce muscle tension.
  • Take medication to allow you to keep moving.

 

Exercises

Cat/camel stretch:  A great exercise to start getting the back moving again.

Start in a kneeling position with your hands on the floor under your shoulders.  Try and arch your back as far as possible up towards the ceiling. You will achieve this by rotating your pelvis backwards.  Hold there for a count of 3 and then try to arch your back in the opposite direction causing a dip in the back.

 

Superman: An exercise to strengthen the back without putting too much strain on the rest of the body.

Start in a kneeling position with your knees under your hips and hands under your shoulders.

Slowly counting to 3, extend your right arm and left leg, have brief hold when your arm and leg are fully straight before slowly returning to the start position.  Repeat on both sides, ensuring that there is minimal movement from your torso.

Don’t:

  • Sit or lie down for long periods. Moving may feel more uncomfortable at first but the more you move the better your pain will feel.

 

Other Tips

Go to A+E or call 999 if you:

  • have symptoms down both legs
  • have weakness or numbness in both legs that is severe or getting worse
  • have numbness around/under your genitals or anus
  • cannot control your bowel or bladder – and this is not normal for you

 

If the problem persists, book an appointment with our physiotherapist who will take a thorough history, investigate the cause of your pain and provide you with hands on therapy relevant to your individual symptoms.

 

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