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