Sciatica is a common term that is used loosely for nerve pain, tingling or numbness down the back of the leg. In reality, the sciatic nerve innervates the back of the leg muscles and while the sciatic nerve does run down the back of the leg, it only provides sensation for below the knee.
If you do have nerve based symptoms that run down the whole back of the leg, the greater likelihood is radiculopathy from the lumbar spine.
If you truly do have sciatica, there are three common causes:
- Lumbar spine – at the lumbar spine, the nerve roots where the sciatic nerve originates from can be irritated due to compression by a physical structure.
- Piriformis – the sciatic nerve travels below, through, or above (depending on the individual) this buttock muscle. When this muscle begins to tighten due to weakness or is overworking to compensate for other muscles, the sciatic nerve can be compressed.
- Decreased soft tissue mobility surrounding the sciatic nerve tract leading to increased susceptibility to over stretching the nerve
Symptoms of Sciatic Nerve Compression:
- Pain/tingling/numbness below the knee
- Weakness in the leg
- Difficulty walking
- Worse with sitting or standing, but improves with lying down
- Limited to one side of the body
Because sciatic symptoms can vary greatly in severity and in the root cause, it is best to immediately see a health care practitioner to properly identify and assist with resolution of the symptoms.
At Movement Performance Centre, our physiotherapists are trained to help resolve your sciatic symptoms by assessing and treating each potential site of compression to ensure that the nerve is able to function optimally. Depending on the root cause of the sciatica, different strategies will be employed to resolve the issue. Possible treatments may include:
- Stretching and soft tissue release
- Increasing mobility of the spine
- Strengthening of the hip and core muscles
- Identify and treat factors affecting but are external to the lumbar spine and hip
If you have any questions or need treatment, give us a call to see how we can get you moving back to normal life.
Author: Zachary Hum MScPT BAKin