We get quite a few inquiries about sciatica at our Kings Cross/Potts Point Healthspace Clinic and I thought it would be good to address the topic as it is an extremely painful and debilitating condition for many Australians.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica relates to the set of symptoms resulting from pressure or compression of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is a large nerve running from the lower back/pelvis region down the back of the leg. The sciatic nerve is formed by the joining of the five lower spinal nerve roots. Therefore compression or pressure of any of the lower five spinal nerve roots can also result in the symptoms of sciatica. There are a number of different possible causes of sciatic nerve pressure that can result in the symptoms of sciatica.
- Lumbar Disc Herniation – bulging of the disc pressing on the advacent nerve
- Spinal Stenosis – narrowing of the bony space the spinal nerve passes through thus resulting in nerve pressure
- Piriformis Syndrome – tightening or spasm of the piriformis muscle through which the sciatic nerve passes thus creating pressure on the nerve
- Pregnancy – altered posture and weight of the foetus on the sciatic nerve
- Tumors – may create pressure on spinal and sciatic nerves
What are the impacts on the body and how does it hurt?
The most common symptoms are lower back and buttock pain that can refer down the leg (usually the back of the leg). Other symptoms may include pins and needles, numbness and weakness in the leg or foot.
How is sciatica diagnosed?
Sciatica as mentioned above may be the result of a variety of different causes. Determining the cause is important in delivering the most effective form of treatment. A physical examination focusing on orthopedic and neurological testing and imaging such as x-ray and MRI are the best way to determine the underlying cause.
What is a typical treatment for Sciatica?
Again, the treatment depends upon the underlying cause. In extreme cases surgery may be required to remove the pressure from the nerve. However the large majority of cases that we see here at Healthspace can be resolved with more conservative approaches like chiropractic treatments, physiotherapy or acupuncture. Home exercises and prevention advice is also given to speed up recovery and reduce the incidence of relapse.
Simple cases can improve within a number of days. Some cases can take weeks or months, especially if it is a complicated case where the person is trying to avoid surgery.The majority of cases we see can be completely resolved. It is only the very bad cases that are required to be referred on for surgery.
If you're concerned you may be experiencing symptoms related to sciatica, don't sit around waiting for the pain to go away. See someone today (and if you happen to read this… don't hesitate to look me up at Healthspace Potts Point!)
See you in clinic!