Excellent work, taking the first steps to understanding and relieving your Sciatica! Once you read this page answer the questions on the sheet given by your physiotherapist at Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Australia and bring that to your next treatment session. Recovery from your Sciatica is crucial in order to achieve your goals and gain rapid and long-lasting results. Your physiotherapist at Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Australia has requested that you read this page so that you understand your condition and know how to best manage in between physiotherapy consultations.

What is Sciatica?

SciaticaThe term Sciatica is used to describe the symptoms of leg pain, sometimes accompanied by tingling, numbness and/or weakness, originating from the lower back, and traveling down the through the buttocks via the large Sciatic nerve. Sciatica is not a medical diagnosis, but rather a symptom of an underlying medical condition. “Sciatica” can be used to describe one or more of the following sensations:
  • Constant pain in only one side of the buttock or leg (rarely in both legs)
  • Pain that is worse when sitting
  • Leg pain that is often described as burning, tingling, or searing (versus a dull ache)
  • Weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg, foot, and/or toes
  • A sharp pain that may make it difficult to stand up or walk
  • Pain that radiates down the leg and possibly into the foot and toes (it rarely occurs only in the foot)

What happens to the body?

On the picture below, you can see that each level in the spine refers to a different area of the body that may be affected. The yellow nerve roots exiting at each level will innervate (supply) a different area of the body. These specific areas are called ‘dermatomes’.
Lower limb dermatome

Lower limb dermatome

The Sciatic nerve originates from nerve roots of L4 to S3 in the lower back, that combine to form the Sciatic nerve, the largest single nerve in the body. Sciatica occurs when the Sciatic nerve is compressed at, or near its origin. Compression of the nerve may occur for a number of reasons, including disc herniation, degenerative disc, spondylolisthesis or spinal stenosis. Sciatica-like symptoms may also occur as the result of muscle tightness in the buttock region, a condition known as Piriformis Syndrome. While this is not true Sciatica, the symptoms can mimic that of true Sciatica. This is not an exhaustive list, but your Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Australia Clinician will be able to diagnose the cause of your symptoms. The specific location of Sciatica symptoms depends on where the nerve is compressed.  

How do I know I what condition is causing my Sciatica?

The best method for diagnosing the specific medical condition is a gentle manual assessment that all Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Australia Clinicians are highly skilled at performing.

What can you do to help my Sciatica?

Your Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Australia Clinicians will determine the best course of action with regard to your Sciatica. The course of action will depend on your clinical diagnosis. Usually, treatment of Sciatica will involve decompressing the nerve and/or nerve roots through manual therapy, and strengthening supporting structures, while stretching any tight structures, such as in the case of Piriformis Syndrome.

What should I do to avoid aggravating my Sciatica?

low back pinched nerve
  • DO NOT smoke.
  • DO NOT sit for longer than absolutely necessary.
  • DO NOT sit with slumped posture, or bend down to pick things up using a stoop lift.
  • RECEIVE physiotherapy care to get your joints, ligaments and muscles de-loaded and moving freely with no restrictions.
Keep good care of your body and your physiotherapist will continue to monitor your condition. Once your Sciatica has resolved you will be able to resume your full activities without worrying about future flare-ups.

Tips from our physiotherapists

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