Treatment of Sciatica

Sciatica is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve – a very large nerve that originates from the lower lumbar spine and travels through the buttock into the leg as far as the back of the knee.

Sciatica is characterized by pain, numbness, and weakness in the legs. Commonly pain and numbness are located at the calf, foot, or back of the thigh. This is usually preceded for a few weeks by lower back pain. Eventually the leg pain becomes worse than the back pain. Pain can either be dull and aching or can be a shooting pain down the leg all the way to the toes. This pain can last for several days or weeks or it can subside for even a few hours.

However, someone who has had sciatica for a long period of time will find that the pain localizes in the buttock and thigh. In severe cases it can damage nerves and reflexes or cause the calf muscle to weaken. Sciatica is a common problem for manual workers, sedentary office workers and is particularly prevalent during pregnancy.

Pressure on the sciatic nerve can result from a number of reasons including:

  • Herniated disc, disc prolapse
  • Poor posture – wearing high heels, prolonged sitting, poor mattress
  • Spinal/vertebral dysfunction
  • Poor lifting technique and poor bending habits
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Spinal compressions due to osteoporosis
  • Tightness of the piriformis muscle in the buttock that compresses the sciatic nerve

Since there are many disorders that can cause sciatica, your physiotherapists’ first task is to determine the exact cause of your sciatic nerve interference. Physiotherapy treatment always begins with a thorough history, spinal, orthopaedic and neurological examination. Special diagnostic imaging investigations such as X-ray, CT or MRI also be required to accurately diagnose your sciatica.

Treatment of Sciatica

As sciatica is due to pressure on the sciatic nerve, it stands to reason that treatment involves removing this pressure. Your Physiotherapy treatment aims to achieve this by reducing nerve pressure caused by poorly moving spinal joints as well as easing muscular tension in the lower spine, buttock and leg. This is achieved by using a combination of the following techniques:

  • Spinal mobilisations
  • Massage therapy and trigger point therapy
  • Stretching tight muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments
  • Ultrasound and other electrical stimulation devices
  • Advice in relation to how to minimise pressure and irritation of the sciatic nerve

In addition to this, you will be given a series of home stretching exercises and asked to apply ice and heat to help aid your recovery. If you are suffering with sciatica at the moment please do not delay – you can achieve the best results when you address the symptoms early.

Please feel free to give us a call on (03) 9873 3333 to discuss this further or to book an appointment with one of our highly qualified Physiotherapists.