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Sciatica - Advice from an Osteopath

Sciatica is one of those terms that gets thrown around alot, often without people knowing exactly what it is. Strictly speaking, sciatica is irritation of the sciatic nerve that runs down the back of the leg, all the way to the toe. This huge nerve can be irritated as the nerve roots exit the lower back (lumbar spine), or the nerve can be irritated anywhere along its course through the leg e.g. piriformis syndrome.

Sciatic nerve irritation at the lower back is often caused by a disc herniation. Between each of our vertebra are intervertebral discs made up of a tough outer ring and a softer, jelly like substance in the middle. Over time, or as a result of injury, the tough outer ring can become damaged , allowing the jelly like substance to seep out. If this substance pushes out beyond the outer ring, this is known as a herniated disc. Some people have these discal injuries with no symptoms at all, but for others this can be very painful due to inflammation, muscle spasm and neural symptoms into the buttock or leg if the disc herniation is irratating a nerve as it exits the spinal cord.

My first piece of advice to anyone suffering with this type of pain is to see a qualified health professional that is able to determine exactly what your pain is and where it's coming from. Symptoms into the buttock and/or leg are not always indicative of a disc bulge and could be, for example, coming from chronically tight muscles, irritation of pelvic joints etc.

Osteopaths train full time for 4 years to diagnose and treat these conditions and are primary health care practitioners, please do not self-diagnose as the management of these musculoskeletal disorders can be very very different.

If you do have an acute disc herniation, we would give you advice on..

  • movements that can aggravate the condition

  • use of ice and anti-inflammatories

  • prognosis

  • ways to protect your back during daily tasks

  • whether further imaging is necessary

  • treatment plan/ rehabilitation protocol

Once you are past the acute stages, your Osteopath will work with you to treat the underlying cause that resulted in the lower back injury through hands-on treatment and rehabilitative exercises. An osteopathic perspective is unique in that we have a 'whole-body' holistic approach, this means that we will look at how the rest of the spine, feet, knees, pelvis, hips etc have an influence on your overall biomechanics, posture and ultimately your lower back.

Although some people require (and like!) to have ongoing maintenance treatment, our aim is always to help you help yourself, ultimately reaching a stage where you can either manage your pain or be pain free altogether without the need for intervention.

If you have any questions or would like to book a consultation, as always please just drop me (Rebecca) an email via the contact page.

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