Sciatica or Sciatic pain is probably the most common problem problem I see as an osteopath in North Finchley, ranging from severe pain and unable to walk to a mild discomfort and only a small referral of pain.
Sciatica is not actually a diagnosis but instead a term given to the shooting pain in the buttocks and down the back of the leg, sometimes as far as the foot. Sciatic pain travels along the distribution of the Sciatic Nerve due to sciatic nerve irritation. Sciatica affects between 1.6 and 46% of the population depending on how it is defined.
The sciatic nerve is the biggest nerve (thickest and longest) in the body and can be as thick as your thumb at its largest point.
Symptoms of Sciatica
- A sharp shooting pain that radiates into the buttock and down the back of the thigh and sometimes into the lower leg and foot
- Shooting pain may make it difficult to stand up or to walk
- Burning or tingling down the leg
- Constant pain in only one side of the buttock or leg (rarely can occur in both legs)
- Weakness, numbness or difficulty moving the leg or foot
- Pain may be triggered by coughing, sneezing or straining
Causes of Sciatica
There are 2 main causes of sciatica, both of which present to osteopaths fairly frequently. There are a couple of others causes but these are less common.
The first and most problematic cause is as a result of a spinal disc prolapse where part of the spinal disc presses on a spinal nerve root causing irritation and nerve like symptoms.
The second cause is something called Piriformis Syndrome. The piriformis is a muscle traveling horizontally from your sacrum to your femur (thigh bone). On occasions the piriformis muscle can spasm causing it to press on the sciatic nerve running underneath it.
Diagnosis and Treatment
One of the benefits of seeing an osteopath is that they are able to diagnose problems and in this case should be able to deduce the site of your sciatic pain based on the information you give in your consultation. Osteopaths don’t use imaging equipment such as MRI’s so the diagnosis will never be 100% confirmed; but based on your injury onset, aggravating factors and some special orthopaedic tests, an osteopath is able to determine the probable cause.
Depending whether your sciatic symptoms are spinal related or muscular related the osteopath will work into the muscles around the spine and buttocks using osteopathic massage techniques, stretching mobilisations and if appropriate may perform some spinal adjustments.
The outcome of osteopathic treatment will depend on the severity of the symptoms and whether there is a spinal disc prolapse and what degree it is prolapsed.
If your osteopath thinks you may need alternative investigation they will be sure to advise you on your best course of action.
Self Care Treatment For Sciatica
Without the ability to see you in person the following can only be used as a guideline.
The first thing you need to do is avoid any bending and picking things up; especially if it involves a twist. Many of my patients have come in with sciatica have babies or small children and have gone to either put their child in their cot or into a car seat while not thinking about their posture causing their back to suddenly “go”. Other patients have gone to pick an object up off the floor causing the same issue- even if the object was not of any significant weight. If these actions can be avoided then you can at least prevent further damage.
Ice the painful area if there is considerable pain. This will help to control high levels of inflammation in the lower back or buttocks.
Try a McKenzie style pushup/ Yoga Cobra position to help encourage a bulging disc back into the spine (if that is the case).
With most back pain and sciatic pain it seems that the muscles around the buttocks also tighten up (gluteus minimus and medius especially) as a way of protecting you from doing any further damage. But as the pain starts to go away the tightness often remains, so try doing the following two stretches to stretch all the muscles in the buttocks.
What Can You Do Now?
If you are concerned about your sciatic pain, don’t just sit there hoping it will go away. Do something about it now and get back to doing what you love whether that’s a round of golf, running, or playing with the kids. Give us a call on 0208 445 1020 or
About The Author
Ashley Ridout has treated people of all ages, physical abilities and professions including professional athletes, so he knows the importance of getting you back to normal as quickly as possible.
Ashley has history of being a personal trainer in one of London’s top Mixed Martial Arts gyms so he can not only treat injuries but he can also help you with your rehab or prevention of injuries too.
Having been involved with various competitive sports himself, Ashley has also been on the receiving end of many injuries so knows the importance of good treatments and sound advice.