Sciatica generally presents itself as symptomatic pain which radiates from the lower back, into the buttock and down the back of the thigh which causes great discomfort, weakness and often numbness or tingling that can extend right down to the feet and toes. The pain can be sharp and debilitating and can increase when seated. It usually appears on just one side of the body.
What is sciatica?
Sciatica is often used to describe the distribution of pain, caused by the irritation of the highly sensitive sciatic nerve (the largest nerve in the body) that originates from the spinal cord in the lumbar spine. It is made up of many smaller nerves that come together to form the one large one (sciatic nerve) which passes through the buttock (gluteal muscle) and then on down into the back of the the thigh and often to the feet.
Many people believe they are suffering from Sciatica and don’t really know what to do to get help.
Who is affected?
It is estimated that almost half of us will be affected by the condition at some point in our lives.
What causes it?
- Slipped (herniated) disc in the lumbar spine (the inner portion contains proteins that are inflammatory) which in turn can irritate the nerve.
- Spinal stenosis. The narrowing of the spinal canal which increases pressure on the spinal cord & nerve roots. Occurring in people over 60.
- Degeneration (arthritis in the spinal joints). Common in people over 60.
- Diminished fluid in the discs leave them weak & bulging against a nerve.
- Muscle spams in the lower back.
- Locked or sprained facet joint in the lower back.
- Pregnancy & a possible slipped vertebra.
- Piriformis syndrome. Whereby the muscle in the buttock goes into spasm irritating the nearby sciatic nerve.
- Sacroiliac joint dysfunction.
By prolonging our periods of sitting and increasing our level of inactivity we are more prone to increased tension in this part of our body, resulting in pain and discomfort that forms the symptoms of sciatica.
What can relieve it?
Visiting a GP or healthcare practitioner will enable the cause for sciatica to be determined, a treatment and management plan can then be set in place.
Treatment depends on the underlying cause and severity of the pain. Treatment may include osteopathy, acupuncture or pain relievers, anti-inflammatories or muscle relaxants and in severe cases cortisone injections into the lumbar spine.
How can osteopathy help?
Osteopaths address the whole body system, and not just the initial site of the pain. Osteopaths work with soft tissue structures (muscles and tendons, ligaments and connective tissues) as well as the joints. Incorporating treatment aimed at managing pain, improving mobility and helping to reduce inflammation, muscle spasms and joint restrictions. Techniques may include mobilisation, massage, joint and muscle articulation and the gentle release of connective tissue.
A treatment plan can also involve lower back conditioning and stretching exercises, self management and advice tailored to individual needs.
If you think you may be suffering from sciatica or have lower back pain please do get in touch with our team. They can arrange a consultation, examination or advise on a treatment pathway.