Despite the common use of the term, sciatica is not a diagnosis but a description of the low back pain, leg pain and other symptoms you can feel in your back, buttock and leg. Sciatica is a word that describes the back pain, buttock pain and leg pain that is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve. This is a symptom, rather than a diagnosis, because many things can cause this feeling – anatomical variations, arterial problems, even a rare form of gout! You may also hear “sciatica” used to describe leg numbness, tingling or other odd sensations like hot water being poured onto your foot.
The sciatic nerve is made up of several nerve roots that come from the low back. Sciatic pain is the most common pain caused by a herniated disc, however just because you have a herniated disc doesn’t mean you will have sciatica – many people have disc prolapses and have no symptoms at all.
Much more rarely, tight muscles in the buttock area (piriformis) can be a cause of sciatica. Piriformis is often blamed for sciatica but actually that muscle is only a real problem in about 5% of cases. Those people frequently will have an anatomical variation where the nerve runs through the muscle instead of underneath it, which in some people makes it more susceptible to irritation.
A muscular cause of sciatica can occur at any age, however the herniated discs causing sciatic pain are more common in younger people. Occasionally, an older person with spondylosis can have sciatic pain. Some of the things that cause sciatic pain can be minimized by being at a healthy weight and maintaining an active lifestyle. Sitting posture changes can be key in reducing sciatic pain, as more pressure is placed through intervertebral discs when sitting than in any other position – and when seated the hip is bent forward which stretches the nerve in the back of the leg.
Once your osteopath determines that you have sciatica that can be treated with osteopathy, they can work with you to help you feel better. Physical treatment, exercise, and postural changes can all be used.
In very rare instances, sciatica will need immediate medical attention. If you have pain all the way down both legs and difficulty controlling your urine or bowel, or feel numbness in your crotch, this could indicate a very serious condition that requires immediate medical treatment. Your osteopath will always ask about these symptoms and if they are there, will immediately help you get the treatment you need. The good news is that for the vast majority of people, sciatica pain is very effectively treated and treatment is very well tolerated.
Help with your sciatica is only an appointment away! Call Tracy for help today!
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