Making sense of sciatica
Sciatica is a type of nerve pain affecting the sciatic nerve that travels from your lower back and down your legs.
Sciatica happens when something in your body pinches or puts extra pressure on the sciatic nerve, causing shooting pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness in the lower back, legs, ankles, and feet. Some of the most common causes of sciatica include disc lesions or narrowing of the spinal canal. With proper treatment, symptoms of sciatica typically improve within 6 weeks. To prevent sciatica from occurring, it is recommended that individuals incorporate exercise focusing on both strengthening and mobility.
What does sciatica feel like?
Sciatica is a type of pain that travels down the sciatic nerve, branching from your lower back and down each leg to the tips of the toes. Usually, sciatica only affects one side of the body and symptoms can vary from person to person.
Some of the most common symptoms of sciatica include:
- Burning, aching, or throbbing pain down the back of the legs
- Numbness and tingling down the back of the legs
- Shooting pain down the back of the legs
- Weakness in the hamstrings, lower legs, ankles, or feet
What causes sciatica?
Sciatica is caused by compression of the sciatic nerve. When something in your body pinches or puts pressure on the sciatic nerve, it can cause pain and numbness that travels down your lower body.
The most common causes of sciatic nerve pain are:
- Disc lesions (herniated or bulging discs)
- Stenosis (narrowing of the spaces within your spine)
- Spondylolisthesis (spinal vertebrae moves forward on the vertebrae below)
- Pregnancy (increased pressure on the sciatic nerve as the uterus grows)
How do you treat sciatica to ease pain?
We begin with a complete assessment of each patient to determine what positions and movements seem to aggravate or relieve their sciatic pain.
From there, we explore comfortable resting positions, pain-free movement strategies and provide a customized exercise program to release pressure off of the sciatic nerve. We also provide therapist-administered manual therapy for pain relief.
Some treatment strategies that we typically suggest to help patients manage their sciatic pain at home include:
- Utilizing a hip-hinge and bracing strategy when bending or getting in and out of a chair
- Utilizing a “log roll” and bracing strategy when rolling in bed
- Going for short walks 2 to 3 times per day