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sciatic pain

Osteopathy can be helpful in the treatment of sciatica.  It is one of the most common problems seen in manual therapy clinics of all kinds.

What is sciatica?

Sciatica is not a diagnosis but a description of symptoms that can help determine a cause of your pain. The term is used to describe leg pain and back pain that is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve. You can also feel numbness, wet sensations or tingly feelings in your legs or feet.

There are different symptoms in different people.  You may have pain on one side of the buttock or in one leg  or a pain that increases when you’re sitting.  You may experience burning or tingling down the leg or a shooting pain that makes it hard to stand up or walk.  You could also experience constant pain on one side of your buttock or difficulty moving a leg or foot.  You may hear “sciatica” used if you complain of leg pain that is sometimes accompanied by numbness, tingling or weakness that starts in the lower back and radiates downward through the back of the leg.  This often causes shooting pain that can be quite debilitating.  Some people experience sporadic leg pain from that is more irritating than anything else while others may suffer severe pain that prevents them from living a normal life.

Sciatica Causes

Sciatica problems can stem from anatomical variations, herniated discs, even an odd manifestation of gout!  A muscular cause of sciatica -“piriformis syndrome” – can occur but not as often as many think!  Herniated discs are the most common cause of sciatic pain and are more common in a person’s early and middle years.  Most people with herniated discs have no symptoms, but some people can develop sciatica.   Some causes can be minimized by staying at a healthy weight, maintaining healthy activity and having good posture.  We can’t do much about getting older, but we can do it in healthier ways and keep as much unnatural pressure off our spines as is possible.  You may be surprised that sitting in your comfy chair may be putting more pressure on your spine than anything else you do, including lifting!

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What is treatment for sciatica?

Once your osteopath determines that your leg pain, back pain, shooting pain or numbness originates from the sciatic nerve and is safe to treat, they can work with you to develop a treatment plan. Treatment with me is conservative and gentle with active and passive movements to help open the joints in area of the spine that is affected and to help ease pain in muscles in the area. An important part of this treatment is the exercise you will take home with you.  Treatment, exercise, weight loss (if needed),  and postural help (such as setting up your desk properly or sleeping differently) can be helpful to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve and reduce the symptoms of sciatica.  It might sound odd, but cognitive behavioural therapy can be important to recovery for those with longstanding chronic back pain and sciatica. There is a large and growing body of evidence linking our emotions and attitudes to our experience of pain.

Most patients with sciatica symptoms can experience reduced pain in six to twelve weeks while others will need further evaluation or treatment.

If conservative treatment for sciatica has not worked, surgery may be required to reduce pressure and therefore inflammation that is irritating the nerve. It’s not an unusual worry but it is very rare for permanent tissue damage to result from a sciatic nerve being compressed. However, in very rare instances, sciatica will need immediate medical attention if you notice shooting pain in both legs, numbness or odd feelings in between your legs, weakness in the leg and/or lack of bladder or bowel control.  These symptoms indicate a serious condition that requires emergency treatment, and if you have these symptoms when you see your osteopath they will help you get the treatment you need.

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Having Sciatic Pain?

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