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Sciatica

Sciatica refers to the entrapment and irritation to one of the largest nerves in the body, the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve emerges from the lower joints in the back towards the base of the spine. It passes through the pelvis and runs deep in the buttock and down the back of the leg towards the back of the ankle.

People who experience sciatica will typically have pain in the buttock and down the back of the thigh. The pain can extend down further into the ankle and along the side of the foot. It can be described as a deep dull nagging and heavy ache and can occasionally feel like an ´┐Żelectrical pain´┐Ż or burning pain. Sciatic pain may also be associated with other symptoms such as pins and needles and numbness over the skin in the buttock, leg, calf or foot/ankle.

Entrapment of the sciatic nerve can be caused by excessive tightness in the muscles which sit alongside the sciatic nerve, causing restriction into how the nerve is able to move. Nerves in the body do not like to be stretched. Normally the sciatic nerve should be able to move freely between the muscles and joints in the body. Extreme muscle stiffness can place undue pressure on the sciatic nerve causing the nerve tissue to over stretch during normal every day movements such as walking and sitting down. Poor movement in the joints in the lower back, pelvis and hips can also prevent and occlude movement of the sciatic nerve.

The sciatic nerve can also become irritated through other pathological means such as progressive osteo-arthritic changes in the spine. Excessive calcium build-up in the joints and vertebra of the spine can cause a narrowing of the gap through which the sciatic nerve passes as it emerges from the spine. The sciatic nerve can also become impinged due to a herniated disc (slipped disc) which causes part of the disc to push onto the nerve.

The approach to the treatment of sciatica is similar to that when treating mechanical low back pain. The aim is to improve the mobility of the nerve by identifying areas where poor movement is occurring in the joints and muscles. Treatment and exercises are also given to gently mobilise the nerve with the aim of reducing pain.

If any of the following symptoms occur following the onset of either low back pain or sciatica then medical attention should be sought immediately.

Unsteadiness on your feet
Abnormality in your gait due to loss of muscle power or sensation in your feet
Worsening symptoms of pins and needles and numbness
Increased frequency, urgency and/or incontinence to urinate or empty your bowel
Numbness/loss of sensation in the perineum (saddle area).



For more information or to book an appointment please call 01322 275 402 or email info@westhillphysio.co.uk. Alternatively please feel free to complete the form below.
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