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What is Sciatica?

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body. Sciatica refers to symptoms of lower back, buttock or leg pain, which can be described as tingling, numbness, or weakness in the leg and foot. These symptoms originate in the lower back but may also be felt without lower back pain. The sciatic nerve exits the spine and travels through the buttock and down the back of the leg before branching off behind the knee to different areas in the calf and foot. You may experience pain or nerve symptoms along any point in the nerve path. Nerve pain may be accompanied with muscle soreness, weakness or tightness depending on the degree of irritation and the possible causes of the symptoms.

Sciatica typically presents in one side of the body but can be experienced bilaterally if there is significant disc involvement coming from the lower back, but having said that, it may also occur in a healthy back! The symptoms can start out of the blue or after a traumatic event such as a fall or motor vehicle accident. If a person is vulnerable to back pain, then they are likely to experience these symptoms at some stage. The condition is complex and affects millions of people every day.

How can we treat Sciatica?

At Mike Varney Physiotherapy we have a variety of options for people experiencing this type of debilitating pain. Improving mobility around the nerve path is the goal, alongside establishing a degree of stability and strength to ensure the nerve does not get over-stressed again.

Initially a patient will need an assessment then some hands-on therapy to help alleviate pain and inflammation. Once this has been provided, the therapist will determine the best route forward that is unique to the patient and completely determined by individual ability and risks. Some hands-on therapy includes manual therapy, deep tissue massage, acupuncture and electrotherapy. Most of the time we want to provide the patient with a gentle stretching routine and some strengthening exercises to try to protect the area from any future injuries. As with most physical health scenarios, this is not a guarantee and patients still need to be aware of the risks of poor posture and inefficient movement patterns that can prolong recovery.

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