Sciatica is a common condition that causes pain to radiate in the buttocks, down the leg and into the foot. This pain is the result of a herniated disc in the backbone that compresses the sciatic nerve. Pain may be constant or sporadic and may involve numbness, burning or tingling. It can be exacerbated by coughing, sneezing, bending and lifting heavy objects. In some cases, sciatica may be the result of certain ingrained habits, such as sitting with a wallet in the back pocket or prolonged wearing of a tool belt with heavy tools. This can cause misalignment of the vertebrae. Back pain may also be present.
In most cases, sciatica can be treated with rest and physiotherapy. As your physiotherapist, we would perform an evaluation to determine your physical condition, pain location and mechanism of injury. We may have you raise one leg at a time, rotate the hip, squat, bend forward or backward and assume other positions. All of this is to help us pinpoint which muscles are involved and how to proceed with treatment.
Pain management is the main focus of your physiotherapy program. Ice is used initially to get rid of pain, followed by heat. Massage is also helpful, especially if there is muscle spasm. In some cases, trigger point massage may be necessary when there is referred pain down the buttocks and leg that resembles sciatica. Biofeedback may be helpful to allow you to control your pain. Proper posture will be taught, as this can go a long way in relieving back pain.
Stretching exercises form a major part of your therapy. These exercises will target the lower back, buttocks and hamstrings to relieve tightness and promote blood flow. They may also include helping you find comfortable, pain-relieving positions. Water exercises, swimming and walking are also recommended. Instruction in proper body mechanics during bending, lifting and carrying heavy objects is another important of the program.
Once your symptoms are under control, we will give you a home exercise program to continue with and make recommendations to prevent recurrence of sciatica. Some of these may include ergonomic adjustments in the work place and weight loss, as a healthy weight puts less strain on the back.
Come in to Back Pain and Posture Clinic for an assessment to be on your way to living pain free.