Sciatica is an umbrella term for any pain or discomfort which involves the irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back down the buttock, back of the legs and into the feet. Sciatic pain can be characterised by pain which radiates from the back down the leg, produces pins and needles, numbness or tingling and can be associate with a loss of power. It is estimated that up to 40% of the New Zealand population will experience sciatic pain at some point in their lives.
The most common cause of sciatica is a disc bulge or disc prolapse, in which the intervertebral discs in your spine bulge out and compress the nerve. These injuries are frequently seen with heavy/repetitive lifting with rotating. Muscle spasms/tightness such as Piriformis syndrome can also cause sciatica by compressing on the nerve as it passes through the muscle.
What to do if you have these symptoms?
A full examination will by a Physiotherapist will help determine the source of the sciatic nerve irritation. Once a diagnosis is created, a treatment plan will be formulated. This will likely include:
Education – advice on activity modification, what to avoid and postures to adopt
Core strengthening program
Onward referral if the source of the irritation is outside the scope of physiotherapy