The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body. It comprises of five nerve roots which travel through the buttocks, down the back of your thigh and calf to the heel and toes.
The term ‘sciatica’ is used to describe the condition affecting the nerve, usually caused by pressure on the nerve at the spine, though compression anywhere along the nerve from the gluteals to the foot will cause symptoms.
Sciatic pain can be anything from a mild ache, tingling or numbness, to severe pain where even simple activities such as walking, bending, sitting or standing up can be painful. The location of sciatic pain can be in one or several of the following areas;
- Spine (nerve root compression)
- Buttocks (especially the Piriformis muscle)
- Back of the thigh (hamstrings)
- Back and outside of the calf
- Heel and toes.
Symptoms are usually in one leg but may occur in both and will vary depending on the cause and location. While these symptoms can be severe and debilitating, they do not usually cause long term nerve damage. Sciatica patients may find;
- It difficult to stand up or walk normally
- Pain improves when lying down or walking
- Pain is aggravated by sneezing or coughing and worse when bending, lifting, sitting or standing
- Prevalent during pregnancy
- Sciatica is a common problem for manual workers, drivers and sedentary office workers
Signs and symptoms
The symptoms of Sciatica are usually a combination of
- Sharp, shooting, electric shock sensation or searing pain in back or legs
- Numbness, pins and needles, burning or prickling sensations in leg and foot
- Weakness when moving the leg or foot or lifting the big toe or ankle up
- Pain and/or numbness on top of the foot or to the outside of the foot
What Sciatica is not!
- The sciatic nerve runs beneath or through the Piriformis muscle in the buttocks as it exits the spine. Most patients with sciatica will have a tight piriformis muscle as this muscle assists with stabilisation of the low back. A tight piriformis muscle can irritate the sciatic nerve as it passes into the leg: This condition is referred to as piriformis syndrome. Through treatment and stretches, when the piriformis muscle relaxes, it reduces compression on sciatic nerve and symptoms cease.
- The Gluteus Minimus lateral trigger points produce a referred pain pattern that is commonly termed "side sciatica" because it is projected to the outside aspect of the buttock and may extend all the way down the outside of the leg to the ankle. The posterior trigger points project a similar sciatica-type pattern of pain down the leg except that it is located on the back of the buttock and thigh, and doesn’t extend past the calf region.
The initial aim of treatment is to remove the irritation of the nerve and increase range of movement. Your Myotherapist will discuss your physical activity and work, and conduct range of movement assessments to establish the cause and most suitable treatment for your condition. Myotherapy specifically targets and treats Sciatica using a variety of techniques such as Myofascial Release, Cupping, Dry Needling, Trigger Point Therapy and stretching.
Following treatment, your Myotherapist will establish ongoing options with you. If an underlying pathology is suspected, your Myotherapist may refer you to an Osteopath, Physiotherapist or Sports Physiologist for further testing.
You will be given a range of exercises to strengthen and improve flexibility of your lower spine, gluteal and leg muscles, depending on your condition.
Aims of rehabilitation
- Decrease initial pain and inflammation.
- Identify biomechanical dysfunction.
- Improve flexibility.
- Injury prevention.
- Return to full fitness.
- Strengthen weakened muscles
For further information and to find out how Spectrum Health and Wellbeing can tailor treatment to assist you with your condition, contact the clinic today.
Spectrum Health and Wellbeing is unique in that it incorporates knowledge and skills derived from Myotherapy, Reflexology, Reiki, Oriental/Sports and Relaxation Massage, Psychotherapy, Strength and Condition, Fitness, Exercise Prescription, Martial arts and Asian philosophy together with Western medicine to maximise the effectiveness of your treatment.
Myotherapy incorporates techniques from other disciplines such as Osteopathy and is similar to Physiotherapy in many ways, focusing on the assessment of the soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, fascia etc.) to eliminate dysfunction and aid recovery. Techniques from Asian therapies and other manual therapies (e.g. Dry Needling, Cupping, Manual Lymphatic Drainage etc.) are included, as well as utilising exercise prescription, stretching and electro-therapy to maximise results