Sciatica is an umbrella term referring to all conditions or injuries that cause irritation to the Sciatic Nerve, resulting in pain anywhere along its pathway. The Sciatic Nerve is the largest nerve in the body. It branches from your lower back through the back of your hips and down the back of each leg. Sometimes pain in the same area is misdiagnosed as Sciatica when it is originating from something other than the Sciatic Nerve. As always, it is important to have a complete assessment done to determine what is causing the pain and how to remove that cause.
Since the nerve can become irritated in a variety of ways, the presentation can vary from person to person. Common symptoms of Sciatica include discomfort in the low back and leg, sometimes including shooting pain, tingling or numbness down the leg as far as the foot as well as weakness in the muscles of the leg and foot. More severe symptoms that include severe pain, tingling or numbness down both legs, or a change in bladder and bowel signs such as an increased frequency and urgency to urinate or constipation may be a sign of a more serious problem. If these symptoms are present, you should seek help with your doctor or local emergency room without delay.
Sciatica most commonly occurs when a herniated disc or a bone spur on the spine compresses part of the nerve. It can also be due to any pressure on the nerve anywhere along the pathway of the nerve from muscular tension or inflammation. A common culprit is the Piriformis muscle on the back of the hip. The Sciatic Nerve runs through this muscle and can be pinched if the muscle is tight or in spasm. Irritation to the nerve resulting from any of these pressures, can result in pain and often numbness or tingling in the affected leg.
Although the pain associated with Sciatica can be severe, most cases resolve using conservative treatment without the need for surgery in a few weeks. Your Physiotherapist or Athletic Therapist can help you determine if or when you may need to consult with a doctor, have imaging done or be referred to a surgeon.
Your Physiotherapist or Athletic Therapist can assess you to determine that you do indeed have pressure on your Sciatic Nerve and where the nerve is being compressed. They can then formulate a treatment plan that will include manual techniques to mobilize your restricted joints/tissues affecting nerve conduction. Exercises to strengthen core stabilizers and postural muscles and stretch out tension in order to minimize nerve entrapment will be prescribed. Education will also be a part of your sessions to help you learn to improve posture and positions to lessen the pressure on nerves.
Registered Massage Therapy can also be a big help in dealing with Sciatica. Your Registered Massage Therapist can help alleviate discomfort and address adhesions or muscular tension that could be compressing the nerve.
As with all injuries, this information is simply a guide, and it is always best to check in with a Physiotherapist or Athletic Therapist to have a personalized assessment and hear recommendations for what you and your body may specifically need.
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