sciaticaThe term sciatica is commonly used to describe any pain in the buttock or leg.

Sciatic pain is often due to a problem at the level of the low lumbar spine, which stimulates nerves as they pass through this region. Although there is technically no injury to the leg, it’s possible to suffer from referred spine pain that is felt in the leg.

Sciatica Symptoms

True sciatica is due to a nerve entrapment of the sciatic nerve. It is felt as a sharp pain radiating down the back of the leg and often into the sole of the foot and big toe. It may be associated with ‘pins and needles’ or even numbness, which usually starts in the big toe and works up the back of the leg.

This is due to an entrapment at the level of the spine (radiculopathy), more commonly known as a ‘slipped disc’, and is potentially the most serious form of sciatica. It can be highly variable sometimes giving an ache after activity, or so painful that sufferers are unable to stand and need morphine to help control the pain.

Sciatic pain may also result from a condition known as Pyriformis Syndrome. This may occur as the sciatic nerve runs close to the pyriformis muscle, located deep in the buttock, which may spasm due to a number of reasons and can lead to a trapped nerve.

This condition mimics the symptoms of a slipped disc almost completely but is usually much easier to correct and responds well to osteopathic treatment.

It is very important that any pain radiating into the limb is checked quickly (usually within 72 hours of onset) – no matter how minor. Fast intervention can often prevent more serious and painful conditions from developing, as well as long-lasting damage, especially to the sciatic nerve. Likewise, any pain radiating into the leg or from ‘pins and needles’ in the foot that lasts longer than a few days can be an early sign of a discal problem, and swift treatment may prevent a serious and painful full herniation.

sciatica treatment

If you’re suffering from sciatica or sciatic symptoms, it’s important to receive a skilled assessment and diagnosis by an experienced osteopath.

If you have had your sciatica symptoms for less than 3 months

If caught within the first 6 weeks – and your condition is not too severe – osteopathic treatment can be very effective. Osteopaths are skilled at finding the mechanical reasons responsible for your sciatica and use effective, gentle treatments to correct these stresses. However it does take some time and often requires between 6-8 treatments to begin to get rid of the nerve pain – and longer to allow you to be able to begin to stress the disc again. But it is perfectly possible to allow the disc to heal without the need for surgery or epidural injection.

There is evidence to support the fact that osteopathic treatment for sciatica can help with sciatic pain* and clinical experience shows that about 40-60% of all cases will respond very well to osteopathic treatment and rehabilitative exercise.

Medication prescribed by your GP can often help with the pain, but can have quite nasty side effects and can be addictive. Also, medication does not get to the cause of the entrapment, meaning that it may take several months for the entrapment to pass.

*Effectiveness of manual therapies: the UK evidence report. Chiropractic & Osteopathy 2010, 18:3 doi:10.1186/1746-1340-18-3 Article URL

If you have had your sciatica symptoms for more than 3 months

If your symptoms of sciatica have persisted for more than 3 to 6 months it is unlikely that osteopathy will be able to help, especially if you have already tried this or some other form of manual therapy. Surgery is not often advised and less than 5% of all disc problems are operated on.

Your GP will probably refer you for a steroid injection for which you may have to wait quite a long time. In addition, steroid injections do not address the disc condition but just bathe the region with a strong anti-inflammatory to help with the nerve pain. The pain often returns, but if it stays away for 3 months it is less likely to. However, the underlying problem still remains and without some form of rehabilitation there is a large risk of recurrence.

For cases such as these, we have had great success using IDD Therapy non-surgical spinal decompression.

IDD Therapy – Specialist Non-Surgical Treatment for Long-Term Sciatica

The Sussex Back Pain Clinic specialises in the non-surgical treatment of sciatica caused by disc problems by using IDD Therapy, the latest non-surgical spinal decompression technology from the USA.

IDD Therapy allows us to:

  • mechanically open the disc space to allow the bulge to be ‘drawn’ back in
  • gently stretch the tight muscle
  • take the pressure off the trapped nerves
  • treat problem areas to a much greater degree than a practitioner could do with their hands

We have had great results with patients who have suffered from months of pain and have either had too long a wait for an injection or previous injections have not worked for them.

We’ve also been able to help patients avoid the need for surgery and return to an active lifestyle.

To full details and case studies visit our IDD Therapy page

Book a consultation and get started on the road to your recovery.

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