Sciatica: what is it and what can I do?

Sciatica is the name given to a pain, tingling, numbness or a type of pins and needles sensation down the back of the leg, which is where your sciatic nerve is located. People often get confused with sciatica, thinking that it is a condition in itself when, in fact, it’s a symptom of a condition.

What causes sciatica?

Sciatica can be caused by many things but is often the result of a disc herniation, disc protrusion or a disc bulge. This is usually identified by a thorough orthopaedic and neurological examination and, in some cases, an MRI scan.

Disc problems

Anyone at any age can develop a disc problem. In fact, 79% of people have a disc bulge that they are unaware of. In some more severe cases, the disc protrusion or bulge can then go on to cause sciatica. You may have heard of the term ‘slipped disc’ which actually refers to the disc herniation or bulge. The discs don’t actually ‘slip out of place’, they bulge which is what cases the irritation to the nerve.

Piriformis muscle

Another cause for sciatica could be your piriformis muscle; you find this muscle in your bum. For 85% of the population, the sciatic nerve runs underneath the piriformis muscle. If this muscle becomes tight, it can pinch or compress the nerve which then creates pain down your leg- known as sciatica. You will find that with a piriformis syndrome, the pain is just in the bum and leg and not in your back. This condition can be greatly improved with exercise!

General wear and tear

Unfortunately, as we get older we get some degree of degeneration and although we don’t like to hear it, we call this general wear and tear. For the more professional title, it would be called Degenerative Disc Disease and Facet Arthrosis. This is usually seen in over 50-year olds and again can create sciatica.

Fortunately though, this can also be managed with exercise!

Easing your symptoms

Although the above and the diagnosis of a disc bulge or herniation is daunting, there are things that can be done to make you more comfortable. We would always advise seeing a professional and gaining their opinion and advice before engaging in activity or self-management.

Once your diagnosis is confirmed, exercises and a plan of management can be organised and then you can start to become symptom free!

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