Osteopaths regularly treat sciatica, usually with good results.

Sciatica is a general term for “Pain down the back of the leg”.  Sciatica is referred pain usually caused by irritation to the sciatic nerve in the lower back, but there can be other causes so an accurate diagnosis is important.

The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back, through the buttocks and down the back of each leg. Sciatica  is a relatively common form of back pain and is caused by a sensitised sciatic nerve.  

The pain from sciatica can be anything from infrequent and irritating to severe and debilitating. Usually, it affects only one side, the pain radiating through the buttock and down the leg and is often associated with a constant pain on one side of the buttocks, pain in the leg and/or buttock that may be worse when sitting , burning or tingling down the leg, weakness, numbness or difficulty moving the leg or foot or a shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand up.

While sciatica can be extremely painful and uncomfortable, it is rare that permanent nerve damage (tissue damage) results. Most pain is due to inflammation and will improve within a period of time. Nerve pain is caused by a combination of pressure and inflammation on the nerve root, and treatment is centred on relieving both of these conditions.

Typically, sciatica is made worse by bending, lifting, sitting, sneezing and coughing.

Sciatica is a common problem for both manual workers, sedentary office workers and is often experienced during pregnancy.

Osteopathic treatment main objectives include:

  • reduce pain
  • restore movement
  • strengthen weakened muscles
  • restore normal function
  • prevent recurrance

Causes of Sciatica

The sciatic nerve is the main nerve in the leg and the largest in the body. It runs from the base of the spine, along the back of the thigh to the knee, where it divides into branches.

Sciatic pain is usually caused by compression of this nerve root at the point where it leaves the spine. Damage to the nerve can also cause pain.

In young and early middle-aged adults, a common cause of sciatica is a prolapsed intervertebral disc in the lumbosacral area of the lower back.

In older people, changes in the spine due to conditions such as osteoarthritis may be responsible either by causing localised pressure on the nerve or by narrowing of the spinal canal – called spinal stenosis.

Other bone disease or local injury may also be responsible.

Irritation of the sciatic nerve can result from a number of reasons including

  • Sometimes, just sitting awkwardly can cause sciatica.
  • Piriformis syndrome (tightness of the piriformis muscle in the buttock that compresses the sciatic nerve)
  • Poor mobility and function of the spine
  • Herniated disc
  • Poor posture – wearing high heels, prolonged sitting, poor mattress
  • Poor lifting technique and poor bending habits
  • Spinal compressions due to osteoporosis

Diagnosis of Sciatica

Since there are many disorders that can cause sciatica, your osteopaths’ first task is to determine the cause of your sciatic nerve sensitivity.

Osteopathy treatment

  • Always begins with a thorough history.
  • Spinal, orthopaedic and neurological examination.
  • Diagnostic imaging investigations such as X-ray, CT, MRI may be indicated in some instances.

Treatment of Sciatica

Science tells us that an holistic , biopsychosocial approach to treatment is important to both treat and prevent recurrence of sciatica.

This is achieved by using a combination of the following techniques:

  • Spinal mobilisations or manipulation where indicated.  Often active, isometric procedures are utilised.
  • Massage therapy and trigger point therapy.
  • Stretching tight muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments.
  • Advice in relation to how to minimise pressure and irritation of the sciatic nerve.
  • Exercise rehabilitation prescription.
  • Education on how to maintain healthy function.

If you are suffering with sciatica at the moment please do not delay – you can achieve the best results when you address the problem early!

For further information, or to consult with one of our skilled Osteopaths you can use the Contact Us or Appointment Request buttons at the top or bottom of this page, call our Mosman practice on 0435 930 111.

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