Sciatica is an umbrella term for pain originating from the sciatic nerve. This can give pain in the lower back, pelvis, and the whole length of one or both your legs. The cause can vary and so does the treatment so an accurate diagnosis from your physiotherapist is required.
There can be many different causes of Sciatica from disc bulges to posture to joint changes. Nerve pain can be tiresome and persistent, but due to having a poor blood supply nerves are slow healers so the sooner you get treatment the better.
Do I need to see my GP first for Sciatica?
No. GP’s have limited time and won’t be able to assess you fully. Physiotherapists are better placed to assess and crucially treat your pain. Doctors can help greatly by providing pain relief but after that they’re likely to refer you for physiotherapy. We don’t require a GP referral to make an appointment for sciatica or low back pain.
Do I need an x-ray or scan?
No. X-rays provide us with very little relevant information regarding sciatica. A physical assessment provides much more detail for appropriate treatment.
Sciatica is something we as Physiotherapists see a lot of in clinic. Sciatica is pain caused by dysfunction of the sciatic nerve and the pain is felt anywhere from the buttock to the thigh, calf or foot. Nerve pain can be severe, shooting, burning, electric-shock like and tingling. It is often aggravated by movement but can be present at rest. A herniated disc, inflamed soft tissue or degenerative vertebral joint can cause pressure on the sciatic nerve roots, resulting in sciatica.
Sciatic is not back pain. It is worth remembering that 8/10 people (perhaps more) will experience ‘simple’ low back pain in their lifetime. Although we term it ‘simple’, this does not dispute the fact back pain can be extremely painful and debilitating, however it is usually not cause for alarm (I could write another piece on this. There’s an idea, watch this space!).
Most cases of sciatica will improve within 6-8 weeks.
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