Sciatica is a term that refers to pain that results when pressure is placed on the sciatic nerve – the nerve which runs from your lower back through to your feet. While it has become almost synonymous with lower back and leg pain, Sciatica actually represents just 5-10% of lower back pain cases. Regardless, it can be a very serious and very painful condition. Here’s a quick overview.
While symptoms vary, Sciatica sufferers typically experience one or more of the following:
- Aching pain from the lower back through the buttock, down the leg and to the feet
- A shooting pain that follows this same path interfering with, or preventing, standing
- A numbness, weakness, tingling or burning in these areas
- A constant pain in one side of the buttocks
These symptoms can increase if you are sitting or standing for long periods of time or moving in a manner that flexes your spine. Severe symptoms include difficulty controlling the bowels or bladder (if this happens, seek medical attention immediately).
One of the most common causes of sciatica is a bulging, ruptured or herniated disc which leads to direct pressure from the spine on the sciatic nerve. However, other causes include a pinched nerve resulting from an accident or injury, arthritis, bone spurs or a narrowing of the spinal column. In rare cases, pregnancy and the presence of tumors have also been known to cause sciatic pain.
Because both the causes and severity varies, so too does the prescribed treatment. In the most minor cases, simply avoiding sitting and/or lying down can help to alleviate the pain (in these cases, the condition may improve or even disappear on its own, in time). However, in cases with mild to severe pain that persists for more than a couple of weeks, physiotherapy is often the best solution. Proper exercises, prescribed by a registered Physiotherapist experienced in dealing with sciatic pain can help to eliminate the pain and even prevent it from recurring. In extreme cases, however, where the pain is more severe or is caused by more extreme factors, painkillers, steroids and even surgery may be required.
In the following video, Dr. Jason Lemieux, from Physiomed Oakville, discusses Sciatica and demonstrates some helpful exercises for those suffering with lower back and Sciatic pain.
If you’ve been experiencing lower back/leg pain and think you might be suffering from Sciatica, please call us to schedule an appointment. As mentioned above, the most important thing is identifying the true cause of your pain so that we can prescribe the right solution!