Anyone who has ever had sciatica will tell you how painful the condition is. So what is sciatica, how is it caused and what can be done to treat it?
What is sciatica and how is it caused?
Running from the back of the pelvis, through the buttocks, down the legs and ending at your feet, the sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body. This nerve supplies sensation to almost all of the skin of the leg and foot and connects the nervous system to the muscles on the back of the thigh, the leg and foot.
Usually, sciatica is caused by a slipped disc, which then presses on the nerve. Other, less common causes of sciatica are:
• Spinal infection or injury
• Spinal stenosis
• Spinal joint degeneration
• Inflammation around the sciatic nerve
• Muscle spasm
• Prolonged wear on the spinal joints and lumbar discs at the base of the spine
When the sciatic nerve is either compressed or irritated, it causes pain, which is usually felt in the buttocks and legs. Sufferers may also experience numbness, weakness in the calf muscles or around the foot and/or ankle, and a tingling sensation stemming from the lower back and radiating down the calf towards the foot.
You can minimise the chances of getting sciatica by regularly exercising, stretching before and after exercising, and maintaining proper posture.
In most cases, sciatica goes away by itself after a few weeks, but in certain circumstances, people will suffer from the pain of sciatica for a year or more.
If you have had sciatica for two weeks and home remedies such as light exercise, hot or cold packs or over- the-counter painkillers haven’t alleviated the symptoms, osteopathy could be the next step.
Osteopathy and sciatica
Sciatic pain is a common problem that can often be alleviated – and in lots of cases, resolved – by osteopaths.
The first thing your osteopath will do is ascertain whether what you are suffering is actually sciatica. Sciatica is diagnosed through taking a full medical history and carrying out a full musculoskeletal and orthopaedic examination of your back, hips and legs. If you have had any X-rays or MRI scans of your lower back during previous investigations or treatment, please make sure you take them to your appointment as this could greatly aid your osteopath in diagnosing sciatica.
In terms of treatment, your osteopath will treat the related joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons in order to reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve. Massage to work on the soft tissues around the area can also release pressure and alleviate symptoms. In addition, manipulation and mobilisation techniques may be used to increase the range of motion in your lower back.
Your osteopath will also suggest various exercises and lifestyle changes to minimise the chance of sciatica recurring.
The good news is that the symptoms of sciatica can often dissipate quickly with the appropriate treatment and self-care.
For further information, then please ‘Ask Andy’. There’s really no need to suffer in silence, help is at hand. You can either book an appointment by clicking here or by calling our Billericay Practice on 01277 650010; Pinner Practice on 0208 868 3555 or Parkstone Practice on 01202 734211.