Sciatica Treatments


Sciatica is a condition that causes pain in the lower back, hip, and down the leg. Essentially, sciatica is caused by a “pinched” nerve in the low back and this causes pain. Typically, this will just occur on one side of the body. This “pinching” occurs due to a disc herniation or overgrowth of boney spurs from a degenerated (arthritic) spine. Boney spurs are called these osteophytes. In some cases the nerve may be compressed by a tumour or a condition such as diabetes may damage the nerve but this is not as common. Technically sciatica is just a symptom (not a condition) and the real condition is what is causing the sciatica such as a herniated or slipped disc.

Symptoms of sciatica

Sciatica can cause pain to travel from the low back into the gluteal (bum and hip) region, down the thigh and leg and into the foot. It can start in the hip with no back pain and as the compression gets worse it may extend down the leg towards the foot. There is usually a great deal of discomfort associated with sciatica however the pain can vary with some patients only reporting tightness in the calf muscles. Pain can vary from dull, sharp, electricity, burning (causalgia) or ants crawling on the skin (formication)

Symptoms are usually made worse with anything that increases the pressure in the spine such as coughing, sneezing, going to the toilet or sitting. It must be pointed out that there can certainly be cases of trauma that cause sciatica such as domestic abuse and sporting incidents however these are less common than repetitive mechanism such as occupations that require extended period of sitting, bending or twisting. Sciatica generally becomes worse if left untreated.

Treatment of sciatica

At Sydney Spine & Sports Centre (S3C) Balmain and Dee Why our chiropractors and physiotherapists have a key clinical interest in treating sciatica. Chiropractic and physiotherapy for sciatica is extremely effective and should be the first option for the diagnosis and treatment of sciatica. The goal of treatment is to reduce pain and improve pre-injury function. Our chiropractors and physiotherapists use a variety of modalities to achieve this including McKenzie Method, cryotherapy (heat and cold), electrophysical therapies (tens & interferential), laser, spinal manipulation and mobilisation, muscle therapies and strengthening exercises.

Sometimes it will be recommended that you have a corticosteroid injection to relieve pain while you get stuck into your rehabilitation and mechanical strategies to improve your back pain, sciatica and spinal function. It should be noted however that spinal injections are only a temporary solution for alleviating pain and discomfort.

In conservative measures fail (chiro or physio) then surgery may be necessary. Some symptoms that would alert our chiropractors and physiotherapist to surgery would be worsening muscle weakness or bowel and bladder symptoms such as incontinence. Surgery will remove the cause of the sciatica such as the slipped or herniated disc, the boney spurs or anything that is causing the “pinched” nerve.
Causes of low back pain

The following conditions are common causes of low back pain.