Sciatica is a condition that can cause pain, numbness, or tingling in the legs. It is caused when the sciatic nerve, which runs from the spinal cord down the back of each leg, is compressed or irritated. This can happen when the discs between the vertebrae of the spine bulge or herniate, when bone spurs develop on the spine, or when a tumour or cyst presses on the nerve. Sciatica can also be caused by pregnancy, obesity, diabetes, or injury to the back or leg.
Where is the sciatic nerve?
The lower back or ‘Lumbar spine’ has 5 bones called vertebrae. The lumbar spine is connected to the Sacrum, the triangular bone at the base of the back, which is above the coccyx bone. The sacrum also is formed of 5 bones, however, these are fused forming one bone called the Sarum, however, nerves still exit this bone as if the vertebra still existed.
The Sciatic Nerve exits your lumbar spine from levels L4, L5, S1, S2, and S3. These nerves join together to form one big nerve in the buttock area either above or under a muscle called the Piriformis muscle. It then continues on its journey down the thigh into the back of the leg.
Why is my Sciatic nerve hurting so much?
Irritation of the sciatic nerve can be caused by a number of factors, including:
– Herniated disc: A herniated disc is a condition where the inner softer part of the spinal disc pushes through the outer tougher part. This can put pressure on the sciatic nerve, leading to pain, numbness, and tingling down the leg.
– Piriformis syndrome: The piriformis muscle is located in the buttocks. If this muscle becomes tight or inflamed, it can put pressure on the sciatic nerve, causing pain in the back of the thigh and leg.
– Spinal stenosis: This is a condition where there is a narrowing of the spinal canal, which can put pressure on the sciatic nerve.
– Sciatica can also sometimes be caused by pregnancy, obesity, diabetes, or age-related conditions.
What does sciatic nerve pain feel like?
Sciatic nerve pain can feel like a dull ache, burning, tingling, or pins and needles in the leg. The pain may be constant or come and go, and may get worse when sitting down or standing up.
How can I help myself?
Getting an assessment is key with sciatic nerve irritation to understand what is causing the nerve compression.
What can be done?
As Osteopaths we would try and understand why the compression is happening. For example – the muscles in the lower back and buttock are compressed and tight, therefore strengthening these muscles and core muscles is key to ensuring the lower back is strong.
The piriformis is tight and therefore pinching the nerve.
A longer leg on one side or ‘leg length discrepancy’ can affect the way your spine stands causing some compression on one side making the muscles tight.
What will the Osteopath do to discover whether I have Sciatica or not?
First, we will ask you some Questions to understand what you are experiencing. We will also talk about your current symptoms in quite a lot of detail so we are very clear as the what you are feeling. We will take down your past medical history. This will enable us to understand why traumas or challenges your body has had in the past or is still experiencing now.
The osteopath will then do a few tests where you will be asked to do some gentle careful movements to see if your symptoms are triggered. This will help us to establish the source of your discomfort. This is called a ‘diagnosis’
Why do I need a diagnosis?
The diagnosis not only helps us to know how to help you best but helps you to understand why you are experiencing these symptoms.
What treatment will I get?
The treatment will depend on your diagnosis. As osteopaths, we use a variety of techniques from our Osteopathic Toolbox.
Muscle release techniques, joint mobilisation to free the joints that aren’t moving so well (this is not the clicking), joint release through traction and distraction,
And yes releasing joints around the compression through manipulation (yes the clicks are safe to do and you are happy with us choosing that technique) ultrasound, electrotherapy, dry needling or musculoskeletal acupuncture, strapping and we would give you lifestyle advice like exercises, hot and cold advice, discovering anything else that might be aggravating your symptoms.
How long will it take to get better?
Getting better can be anything from a few days to a few weeks.
Sciatica is a condition where there is pain, numbness, and tingling down the leg. This may be caused by a number of factors, including herniated disc, piriformis syndrome, spinal stenosis, or age-related conditions. The most important step in getting better is understanding what is causing the compression of the sciatic nerve. Treatment will vary depending on the diagnosis but can include muscle release techniques, joint mobilisation, electrotherapy, and dry needling. Getting better can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. However, for more details, speak to our team for more helpful advice.