What is Sciatica?

picture of a woman with lower back pain.

To understand sciatica symptoms and causes , we must first understand sciatic nerve. It is the longest nerve in the body. It starts in the lowermost part of the lower back and extends all the way down to the big toe. Sciatica is the compression of this nerve in the lower back. Although the compression is in the back, the pain is felt all the way down to the toe! It can be a very debilitating problem. Restricting all daily activities mainly sitting and bending. These activities put tremendous pressure on the nerve.

Sciatica causes and symptoms:

  1. One of the most common sciatica causes is compression of the sciatic nerve by a bulging disc. This usually occurs at the lowermost level of the back from where the nerve originates. Any trauma like a fall or car accident can cause this problem. But also repetitive lifting and bending puts tremendous pressure on the disc over time.
  2. Another cause is very tight buttock muscles that can push on the nerve. The sciatic nerve passes through the buttock muscle. So any tightness or injury can also cause sciatica symptoms.
  3. Wear and tear of the spine called spondylosis or spondylitis. This happens over a period of time. For example, people doing heavy , physical work. There can be bony spurs pushing on the nerve.

Sciatica symptoms:

The main symptom is sharp, shooting pain going down the back of a leg to the big toe. This is usually intermittent and related to certain activities. The activities will depend upon where the nerve is getting compressed. For example, a disc bulge will always compress the nerve in sitting or bending activities. This is due to the fact that there’s maximum pressure on the disc with these activities.

Sciatica treatment

Picture of a woman doing Physiotherapy treatment to a persons back

Physiotherapy is really the first course of treatment for sciatic nerve pain relief. According to the Australian Physiotherapy association, Physios will diagnose the problem and treat it effectively. They will use the following methods to treat the pain:

  1. Joint movement in the lower back to increase blood flow and reduce pressure on the nerve
  2.  sciatica exercises to reduce the compression on the sciatic nerve
  3. Soft tissue release of the muscles under tension like your buttock muscle
  4. Long term exercises and advice for long term prevention