Sciatica is nerve pain which travels down your Sciatic nerve through your buttocks and legs. The sciatic nerve is made up of a group of nerves that come together in one formation and run all the way down to your feet. Due to the length of the nerve and how it branches off to supply other tissues and muscles, it is subject to many different stresses. You may also get “pins and needles” or even numbness, which usually starts in your big toe and works up the back of your leg.
How Common is Sciatica?
Sciatica is the most common complication with back pain and spinal related damage. When your disc bulges or herniates, for example, it can put pressure on sensitive spinal structures, most commonly the sciatic nerve.
Who Might Get Sciatica?
If you are between 30 and 50 you are more likely to get sciatica. Women may be more likely to develop the problem during pregnancy because of pressure on the sciatic nerve from the developing uterus. Other causes include bulging or herniated discs or Degenerative Disc Disease.
What are the Symptoms of Sciatica?
- Stabbing, burning or shooting pain in your buttocks, back of leg, foot and toes
- Tingling in your buttocks, back of leg, foot and toes
- Weakness in your buttocks, back of leg, foot and toes
- Difficulty walking
- Muscle weakness
- “Pins and needles” feeling in your legs, toes or feet.
What Causes Sciatica?
- Bulging or Herniated disc. The bulge puts pressure on your Sciatic Nerve. As your spinal segments are compressed, without the protection of the soft tissues that make up the disc, the nerve gets pinched which causes the pain.
- Degenerative disc disease. The wearing down of your discs shortens their height and leads to your nerve passageways becoming narrower causing compression on your Sciatic Nerve.
What Does Sciatica Feel Like?
Sciatica can be agonising. It can range from a mild, dull ache in your lower back, to an intense feeling of numbness and pain which travels down your leg to your foot. It is highly variable and sometimes will give an ache after activity, or so painful that you are unable to stand and may need painkillers to cope.
How Is Sciatica Diagnosed?
Usually, an osteopath or doctor will be able to diagnose you by looking at your medical history and undertaking a physical examination to check your muscle strength and reflexes, as well as determining exactly where your pain is coming from. It is also possible for sciatica to be diagnosed using an x-ray or MRI, for example, but your doctor or osteopath would only request this if they believed you were suffering with another condition that requires such tests, such as a herniated or bulging disc.
How Do You Treat Sciatica?
If caught within the first 6 weeks – and your condition is not too severe – osteopathic treatment can be very effective. Our osteopaths are skilled at finding the mechanical reasons responsible for your sciatica and use effective, gentle treatments to correct these stresses. However, this process can take some time and often requires 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.
If your sciatica symptoms have persisted for more than 3 to 6 months, it is unlikely osteopathy will be able to help, especially if you have already tried this or some form of manual therapy. Surgery is not often advised and less than 5% of all disc problems are operated on.
For cases such as these we would always recommend that you consider IDD Therapy. IDD Therapy uses advanced computer engineering to target very specific segments in your spine where there is damage. The Accu-Spina unit safely and gently pulls your vertebrae apart, a process known as distraction. This decompresses the spinal disc to reduce the bulge, stretch tight and shortened muscles and improve mobility in stiff ligaments and joints – allowing your body to heal naturally.
We introduced IDD Therapy into our clinic in 2010 and have successfully treated hundreds of patients, as well as giving those who were facing the prospect of invasive treatments like spinal injections and surgery a natural alternative.
How Can I Prevent Sciatica?
Some causes of Sciatica are difficult to avoid, such as degenerative disc disease, pregnancy or accidental injury. However, there are steps you can take to help reduce your risk:
Practising good posture. It is important to remain aware of your posture when you sit, stand and sleep. Good posture reduces strain on your spine.
Exercise regularly. The health of your discs is dependent on movement, so exercise done correctly is good for your back.
Stopping smoking. Nicotine reduces the blood supply to the bones. It weakens the spine and the vertebral discs, putting more stress on the spine.
Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity can place an abnormal load on your lower back and be a catalyst for several spinal conditions. Also, a poor diet is associated with inflammation and pain throughout your body.
Choose physical activities least likely to hurt your back. Strains and sprains are the most common cause of back pain, so consider low-impact activities.
Does Sciatica Increase the Risk for Other Conditions?
Sciatica does not necessarily increase the risk for developing other conditions as sciatica only affects the Sciatic nerve. However, if Sciatica is ignored and not treated, it can cause permanent nerve damage which can be extremely painful and debilitating. It is important to ensure if you suspect you may have sciatica- seek medical treatment immediately.
Steve Morris is an Osteopath with over 30 years’ experience. He is a specialist in the field of non-surgical treatment of disc conditions, especially sciatica. He uses various different treatment mediums, from hands on osteopathy and acupuncture to the use of mechanical decompression with IDD Therapy, for which he is one of the country’s leading exponents and experts.
eve Morris is a highly experienced Osteopath with over three decades of hands-on experience. As one of the pioneering figures to introduce IDD Therapy in the UK back in 2010, Steve has not only established himself as a leading authority in the non-surgical treatment of disc conditions, but he’s also recognised as one of the country’s foremost experts in mechanical decompression through IDD Therapy.