How can a Physio help you with Sciatica


Sciatica is a type of lower back pain that occurs when the sciatic nerve is either compressed or irritated. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body and runs from the lower back, through hips, buttocks and legs (exiting the L4,L5,S1,S2, S3 levels). Sciatica is a symptom rather than a medical condition as it indicates an underlying issue affecting the sciatic nerve.

Sciatica is commonly caused by a herniated disc which presses against the nerve. Other causes may include spinal stenosis (narrowing of spinal canal), degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis (misalignment of vertebrae),  spinal or paraspinal mass (malignancy, epidural hematoma or abscess) as well as muscle imbalance. Other non spinal causes for sciatica includes piriformis syndrome, pregnancy, pelvic tumours and trauma to the leg. 

Sciatica pain usually affects only one side of the body. The pain is often described as sharp, shooting or burning in nature and can vary in intensity ranging from mild discomfort to severe pain.

Another symptom that individuals with sciatica may experience is numbness and tingling sensation down the affected leg or foot  which may lead to difficulty walking, standing or performing movements. Other symptoms includes muscle stiffness in the lower back, limited active range of motion, pain aggravated by daily activities like sitting for prolonged periods, lifting or bending. 

How can a Physio help?

Physiotherapy can assist individuals who are experiencing sciatica by firstly conducting a thorough assessment which includes a subjective assessment, physical assessment. The treatment will be based on the outcome of the assessment.

Overall,  the aim with physiotherapy for sciatica is to assist with pain management, restore normal range of motion in the spine, improve function and strength. Physiotherapists can assist with this by using various treatment approaches such has manual therapy soft tissue mobilization, joint mobilization to reduce muscle tension in the lower back. Specific strengthening and stretching exercises can be used to strengthen areas to support the back such as core and glutes. 

Exercises prescribed by a physiotherapist is tailored to the individuals needs and  can not only improve strength but also improve flexibility  and promote proper posture. 

A physiotherapist can further assist by providing education and self-management advise which can prevent further occurrences of sciatica. 

Furthermore, physiotherapists work closely with individuals experiencing lower back pain and sciatica to reduce pain, improve mobility and enhance their overall  quality of life. Physiotherapists provides a comprehensive approach with a combination of hands on treatment, therapeutic exercises and education to address the underlying cause of pain and most importantly to promote a long term recovery. 

Lauren Kloppers – Physiotherapist

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