top of page

Sciatica, what is it and what can you do?

If I had a £ for every person who tells me they have sciatica, I'd be a millionaire! Sciatica affects 10% to 40% of the population and affects people in various ways and, lengths of time. There is no one remedy cures all approach, and the severity varies from person to person. Here I want to explore some of the common views around sciatica, the myths and some helpful advice for those suffering.

Stretch for sciatic pain

What is it & why?

Sciatica is pain caused by the nervous system. This pain stems from nerves in the spinal column and travels down the body. The severity of pain can vary, this depends on the involvement from nerves in the spinal column. Depending on the nerve root, the pain can be local to the lower back and glutes, pain down the back of the leg, or travel down to the outer part of the foot. It is also possible for more than one nerve root to cause issues. This can cause overlapping pain, causing devastating pain to the person with it. Not everyone has the same symptoms, although they can be similar.

The root cause of sciatica is usually caused by problems in the lower back area. These causes can vary and it is important to gain a medical diagnosis rather than one done by yourself. Some cases of sciatica require urgent surgery, whilst most can be treated without. If you have numbness, tingling down the side of your leg/foot or excruciating pain then please do go and see your GP.

Sciatic symptoms can look like any of these;

  • Lower back pain

  • Shooting pains down the leg

  • Shooting pains in the foot

  • Numbness sensation in the leg or foot

  • Tingling sensation in the leg or foot

  • Unbearable pain in the buttock

  • Muscle spasms in the back

  • A weakness in the leg or foot

Weight & Height play a part!

Your likeliness of getting sciatica are increased with weight and height. If you are overweight, this increases your chances of sciatica, this may be to do with the added pressures on the spine and hip joint. If you are taller than 185cm and male, apparently you are prone to this too. Unfortunately, we can't do anything about height, sorry guys! You may have always been on the heavier side and never had any problems, this doesn't mean that it wouldn't be this. Sciatica can start at any time and be triggered by the simplest of activities.

What if it's something else?

As I mentioned before, getting a medical diagnosis should be your first step before taking any further action. A lot of people self diagnose and it turns out, they have something else. Piriformis syndrome has very similar symptoms to sciatica and the two are often mistaken for each other. Sciatica originates from a problem in the spine such as a herniated disc. Piriformis syndrome is caused when the piriformis muscle, irritates the sciatic nerve, sending pain signals around the buttock and down the leg.

The piriformis is a deep muscle and sits horizontal to the sciatic nerve that is traveling downwards. When the muscle becomes tight, irritated or inflamed, then it can compress the sciatic nerve. Although not as serious as a herniated disc, it is still not a nice feeling, the pain can often feel worse. That being said, it is much easier to treat using physical therapy, exercise and stretching.

Solutions and treatments

On a positive note, most sciatic cases resolve with medical treatment, both holistic and medicine. The symptoms for these cases are often gone in 4/6 weeks, up to 12 weeks.

To keep sciatica at bay, exercise is known to really help the condition. Through exercise, you can increase the mobility of the joints and soft tissue in the area. Bone and muscle strength will increase and the results are both short and long term. Do not under estimate the power of exercise!

man standing at office desk

Regular exercise can help reduce your chances of getting sciatic symptoms, along with many other benefits. It doesn't matter how old you are, your abilities or lack of. Any movement you do will help. For example, if you have a job that requires 8 hours a day in front of a computer, get up out the seat every hour. You could just stand up, go for a walk to get some water or even jog on the spot. Re adjusting yourself through the day will help so you are not stuck in the same position all day. Just to add another little tip, whilst you are sat down, flex your toes upwards to help stretch out the back of your leg, this helps too!

An example for someone who has limited mobility in terms of chronic fatigue and achy joints. Try taking a hot bath or shower, whilst there, do some light stretches such as tucking your knees in towards your chest. Sitting crossed legged on the floor or reaching for your toes without bending your knees.

You can google so many different exercises and references to help with the symptoms. The important thing to remember is, you do not want to make it worse. If the pain is heightened through any exercise you try, immediately stop. You could be making matters worse. Any exercise you do, should be within a comfortable range, and it is to help the situation, not flex your body to its limits. If you are struggling with exercise, there are a number of products on sites such as amazon, which offer products to help deal with the pain.

Does Massage help?

Massage can help but, it is important to see a medical professional first. Treatments such as sports massage and deep tissue therapy can be really helpful once we know it is safe to apply strong pressures. These massage treatments work hard at tackling the deep tissue, which is potentially compressing or irritating the sciatic nerve. It can be a slightly uncomfortable experience but the relief can be as good as eliminating the pain completely. Massage therapy isn't a permanent fix though, and you should still try and do exercise and movement when possible. If you are looking for a qualified massage therapist, here I am and you can book here. If your are not local, you can look at the FHT directory for a local therapist near you.

If you have recovered from sciatica, never had it, or coming to the end of a bout of pain, here are some main focus points to help keep sciatica away;

  • Work on your core strength

  • Improve flexibility of your calves and hamstrings

  • Do some light aerobic exercise regularly

  • Consider the strain on your spine, especially with repetitive strenuous tasks.

Thank you for reading, I hope this short guide helps! If you found this helpful and would like to see more from me, please visit my homepage and join the mailing list at the bottom of the page.

20 views0 comments
bottom of page