What is Sciatica?
The term sciatica refers to pain, inflammation and neurological sensations associated with the sciatic nerve, most commonly presenting itself as pain radiating down the back of the leg. It most commonly occurs when a herniated disk or narrowing of the spine (spinal stenosis) compresses part of the sciatic nerve. The pain can be described as anything from a dull ache to a sharp shooting pain down the leg that can leave the person momentarily incapacitated.
Symptoms of Sciatica
- Throbbing pain in the lower back, buttocks or legs while sitting.
- Pain in the buttock or down the leg.
- Tingling, pins and needles or numbness in the calf or foot.
- Muscular weakness.
- Difficulty in moving or controlling the leg.
- Lower back pain that is exacerbated when you cough or sneeze, or when driving in the car.
Risk factors for Sciatica
- Age-related changes in the spine, such as herniated disks and bone spurs, are the most common causes of Sciatica.
- By increasing the stress on your spine, excess body weight can contribute to the spinal changes that trigger Sciatica.
- A job that requires you to twist your back, carry heavy loads or drive a motor vehicle for long periods might play a role in Sciatica.
- Prolonged sitting. People who sit for prolonged periods or have a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to develop Sciatica than active people are.
Physical Therapy Management
Physical therapy is a clinically proven way to reduce pain and improve muscle strength. Physical therapy such as physiotherapy, osteopathy and sports therapy, can help people with sciatica because it can help reduce inflammation and pain, improve physical function, and prevent recurrence of sciatica symptoms. Typically, physical therapy for sciatica usually takes 6-12 weeks. A physical therapist may prescribe a combination of various types of physical, manual, soft tissue mobilization, and/or exercise therapies in treating sciatica. Specific exercises depend on the underlying cause of sciatica, as well as other factors, such as the patient’s level of pain, and overall conditioning.