What is Sciatica or Sciatica nerve pain?
Sciatica is the medical term given to describe symptoms that are present due to irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the biggest peripheral nerve that exits the spinal column through our lumbar spine and sacrum. Its pathway is down through the buttock and continues down both legs (we have 2 sciatic nerves). Any pain or symptom in this region can be attributed to issues associated with this nerve and the surrounding musculature.
What are some of the symptoms of Sciatica?
- Weakness and/or numbness through the leg, foot and toes on 1 or both sides (more common on 1 side).
- Pain that is often described as sharp, tingling, severe burning or searing in nature. Sometimes numbness in certain parts of the lower limb can be a symptom.
- One sided pain that may be felt in the lower back, buttock, hip and leg. It may also radiate down to the foot and/or toes
- Difficulty walking (either due to pain or numbness).
Is Sciatica a diagnosis or symptom?
Sciatica is not a diagnosis, merely a description of symptoms falling under the umbrella term of ‘low back pain’. The injury that is causing the symptoms along the sciatic nerve is actually the correct diagnosis. Common causes can include:
- Lumbar disc herniation
- Degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis
- Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spine)
- Nerve entrapment e.g. from tight musculature surround the lumbosacral area – piriformis muscle commonly
- Muscle imbalances and tightness
I have pain and symptoms down my legs, but not in my back. Can this still be Sciatica?
Majority of the time sciatic pain is treated and managed with conservative treatment. As sciatica is usually caused by the above issues, it is important that we diagnose where the pain/dysfunction is coming from and then tailor the treatment to suit. Pain and symptoms will vary from person to person and it is often quite common that the pain stems from the lower back, but some people will have virtually no pain through their lower back but still get symptoms.
Keeping in mind that pain (thoroughly scientifically researched) is a sensation that is interpreted by our brain and is based off numerous factors like previous experience, stress as well as social interactions. From time to time our mind can misinterpret these signals and this may present as pain in some cases, this can be extremely confusing for patients and practitioners to understand.
How can Osteopathy help with Sciatica nerve pain?
Our Osteopaths are experienced in providing effective treatment/management plans for people suffering from sciatica. We offer a range of treatments, which can include:
- Strengthening exercises for supporting muscles e.g. lower back, core, hip
- Hands on massage for restricted joints and/or tight and tender muscles
- Dry needling/acupuncture
- Corrective exercises to strengthen supporting muscles e.g. lower back, hip and core.
- An individualised exercises program for self-management and future prevention.
- But most importantly we can give advice and education about the condition and how to manage the symptoms, generally exercise and staying active achieves better outcomes short and long term.
What should I expect from a treatment for Sciatica?
Generally, most cases of sciatica resolve within 6-12 weeks of management and usually aren’t serious. Very rarely, a surgical technique known as micro-discectomy (removal of the bulging part of the disc) which when removed can take pressure off the adjacent nerve root. Don’t let MRI scans fool you though. It is completely normal to have a ‘disc bulge’ on MRI, and MRI’s have shown 30% of 18-year olds have some form of disc pathology. You’re more likely to have one than not! Only the most severe of the extreme cases are a surgical solution and surgery is always the last resort.
It is very common for an individual that has no symptoms or minimal symptoms to be told that they have 2-disc bulges, facet joint arthritis and nerve compression on imaging once they have had a scan but more times than not function like normal. This is why we treat the individual not the scan and the scan only plays a small part in the diagnosis.
If you’re unsure how Osteopathy can help you and your injury get in contact with us at Hobsons Bay Health Group and we can definitely point you in the right direction to making you the happiest and healthiest you can be!!!