Sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg. Typically, sciatica affects only one side of your body.
Sciatica most commonly occurs when a herniated disk, bone spur on the spine, or narrowing of the spine (spinal stenosis) compresses part of the nerve. It can also occur with the sciatic nerve is compressed under the piriformis muscles. Sometimes, a trigger point in the gluteus minimus muscle can mimic sciatica type symptoms as well.
Pain that radiates from your lower (lumbar) spine to your buttock and down the back of your leg is the hallmark of sciatica. You might feel the discomfort almost anywhere along the nerve pathway, but it's especially likely to follow a path from your low back to your buttock and the back of your thigh and calf.
The pain can vary widely, from a mild ache to a sharp, burning sensation or excruciating pain. Sometimes it can feel like a jolt or electric shock. It can be worse when you cough or sneeze, and prolonged sitting can aggravate symptoms. Some people also have numbness, tingling or muscle weakness in the affected leg or foot. You might have pain in one part of your leg and numbness in another part.
Some movements and that can be painful with sciatica include bending forward and lifting. In addition, prolonged sitting or pressure on the affected buttock may be painful.
If you've been diagnosed with sciatica, the first common-sense recommendation is to take a short break from any aggravating activity. This allows any irritation or inflammation around the nerve to settle down. While taking a break usually helps with pain, in order to get back to bending, lifting, and sitting without pain, you have to address the root of the issue. The best way to determine the root causes of sciatica is to have a movement assessment performed.
Sciatica is often correlated with a lack of mobility of the hip muscles and the spine muscles. There may also be a weakness at the core and gluteal muscles. In addition, poor technique with exercise and pushing through pain may lead to sciatica type symptoms.
Once you know what your specific limitations are, you can get to work. If the low back or buttocks are painful, press-up exercises can be effective for pain relief. These exercises can be found in our video library. If pain persists, having hand-on therapy performed can alleviate a stubbornly painful back or hip.
If weakness is found, learning activation exercises to engage muscles that are not firing well is key. Some muscle groups that should be focused on include the trunk, lower back, and hips.
Once pain is controlled and muscles engage better, the next step is learning how to create tension and stability with compound movements. Exercises should include the hinge, squat, and lunge patterns.
When addressed with specialized physical therapy, you can overcome sciatica without medications or invasive procedures and reclaim an active life. However, ignoring symptoms may result in a sciatica problem that will cause a decline in your health and quality of life.
If you have symptoms of sciatica and want help, the physical therapists at Movement Solutions would be glad to help you.
We have a free guide on relieving back pain that can give you further insight into back problems like sciatica and help kickstart your recovery. We are available for a free 15-minute phone consultation to talk about how your pain is affecting you and discuss your treatment options.
If you’re considering physical therapy, we offer a limited number of free Discovery Visits at our office. This is an opportunity to ask questions, obtain clarity about your back pain, and foster confidence that we can help you.
If you’re in pain and unsure about what your next steps should be, call us at (864) 558-7346 and ask how we can help.
Call us at (864)558-7346 and ask how we can help.