In a nutshell, Sciatica is a condition whereby you can feel mild to severe pain, pins and needles and/or numbness down one or both legs. The sciatic nerve runs down the legs from the lower back, and because of its anatomy, the nerve can occasionally get ‘trapped’ (when another structure applies a direct pressure). It is possible that a bulging or herniated disk can press into the sciatic nerve or in some cases it may be a muscle in the bottom, the piriformis, that if tight, can trap the nerve.
Dependent on where the nerve is trapped, it can refer the pain and symptoms to different parts of the legs, which can in some circumstances, help in the diagnosis of the problem. The nerve branches off from the spinal nerve at five vertebrae (L4 through to S3), it travels down the back of the leg all the way into the foot, it also divides off behind the knee into multiple pathways down the lower leg. Due to the anatomy of the sciatic nerve, patients will generally feel symptoms in one, numerous or all the following areas; the lower back, the glutes, hamstrings, down the centre of the calf or the outside of the lower leg and into the foot.
Sciatica is a common problem in men and women of all ages, weight, height and fitness levels. It can often occur out of, what seems like, nowhere. If you have general wear and tear in the spine, over time, the space for the disks might begin to narrow causing them to bulge. This ‘out of the blue’ onset can also be due to the piriformis muscle tightening up over time, which is common in people that spend too long in a seated position.
There are more obvious onsets of sciatica, for example; if you have been in an accident where an external force caused trauma to the spine (such as falling from a height or a car crash), lifting a heavy object in the incorrect position or sports related injuries. The disks in the spine are at risk of herniating or bulging in any of these scenarios.
As you can see, sciatica can affect all of us and for many reasons, therefore it can be difficult to prevent (unfortunately we cannot predict when accidents may occur). However, having said that, you can prevent the piriformis from tightening up and delay the deterioration of the spine through daily exercise, regular stretching and manual therapy such as massage.
It is important to implement the right management program for you, everyone reacts differently to manual therapy, exercise, stretching and other treatment modalities. Our recommendation would be to start with your physiotherapist, they will be able to assess the severity of your symptoms, conduct any hands on treatment they deem suitable for you and give you a stretching and gentle exercise program to reduce your pain and improve your function.
If you believe you may be suffering from sciatica, have any questions about it or any other general concerns you want to discuss then do not hesitate to get in touch with us today via our contact page
Contact our Lewisham clinic based at Anytime
Fitness Birdwood Avenue Lewisham SE13 6UR.
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300 High Road, Leyton, E10 5PW.
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Esplanade, Southend, Essex, SS1 2ES.