Despite often occuring as a leg pain, sciatica is linked to back pain. Around 13-40% of people with lower back pain will also experience additional leg pain, which can be debilitating and significantly impact ones quality of life. In many cases, this is linked to irritation and inflammation of the sciatic nerve, which is the longest nerve in the body.
What are the symptoms of sciatica?
Leg pain that radiates out from the lower back, down the buttocks and into one or both of the legs, right down to the lower calf
Neurological sensations such as tingling or numbness into the foot or toes
What causes sciatica?
Frequently sciatica is caused by injury to the discs in your lower back, which when damaged can inflame the nerve and cause it to become irritated, sensitive and swollen. Leg pain combined with neurological symptoms is most commonly due to irritation and inflammation of the nerves in the lower back which combine together to form the sciatic nerve, and therefore the condition is termed ‘sciatica’.
What can be done to relieve the symptoms?
The good news is that the majority of sciatica cases will resolve with conservative treatment such as osteopathy, exercise and acupuncture. For most cases of sciatica, the aim of osteopathic treatment is ‘settle down’ the inflamed nerve using gentle manual therapy techniques (such as soft tissue stretching and mobilisation of joints). Osteopaths can also advise you on specific exercises and self-management strategies, so that you’re back on your feet as quickly as possible.
However, for some people, the discs become damaged in such a way that they compress (trap) the nerve against the spinal bones, which may require surgery. Fortunately, these cases are relatively uncommon; however if you are unsure you should contact an osteopath for an appointment. From a thorough clinical examination they can provide a diagnosis and discuss with you possible treatment options or whether other referral to a specialist is necessary. Dr Oliver Thomson is a researcher at the British School of Osteopathy.
To book an appointment with a BUZZ card discount at our teaching clinic, please call 020 7089 5360 or email clinicappointments [at] bso.ac.uk. We are able see patients for sciatica or indeed any other aches, pains and musculoskeletal injuries you may have.