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Sciatica is commonly used to describe radiating leg pain. It is most commonly caused by inflammation or compression of the lumbosacral nerve roots (L4-S1) forming the sciatic nerve. The pain usually only occurs on one side. Sciatica can cause severe discomfort and functional limitations that affect quality of life and productivity.
People with sciatica often describe aching and sharp leg pain radiating below the knee and into the foot and toes. The pain can have a sudden or slow onset and varies in severity. Many people report coexisting low back pain. More common pain at the back or side of the leg and into the foot and toes, however, pain can also be localised to the front and lateral side of the thigh. Tingling or numbness and loss of muscle strength in the same leg are other symptoms that suggest nerve root involvement.
Compression of the nerve root and resultant inflammation plays a role in sciatica. The most common cause of sciatica is disc herniation resulting from age-related degenerative changes. Smoking, obesity, and manual labour are other common modifiable risk factors in patients’ lifestyles. Sciatica is rarely caused by trauma.
Initial treatment is aimed at managing pain and maintaining function while the compression and/or inflammation subsides. It is important to remain active and avoid long periods of rest so that the condition interferes as little as possible with daily life. Pay attention and report any change in symptoms, such as increasing leg pain, numbness, or weakness in the leg to your Chiropractor.
Exercise reduces the intensity of leg pain in the short term and is more of a temporary band-aid fix. Your Chiropractor can guide you on appropriate exercises and how to perform these correctly. The Chiropractor will gauge the severity of your pain and your ability to perform certain exercises when making recommendations.
Manual therapy, such as Chiropractic adjustments alongside the exercises can give your body the best chance to function at its best and relieve pressure off of the sciatic nerve to help get the best long-term relief.
You may have tight muscles as a result of sciatica pain. Massage may also help alongside Chiropractic adjustments to loosen up your muscles, alleviating some pain and improving mobility and flexibility.
Purpose: To strengthen the lower abdominal muscles and stretch the low back.
How to perform a pelvic tilt:
Purpose: To help reduce nerve compression in your low back, which may help alleviate lower back pain.
How to perform knees to chest:
Purpose: To increase your spine’s mobility and flexibility.
How to perform lower trunk rotations:
Purpose: To strengthen your abdominal muscles and low back, stabilising those areas.
How to perform this exercise:
The abdominal and spinal muscles are essential components of the spine’s support system. These 4 low-impact exercises, when performed correctly, can help strengthen your spine and increase its flexibility and range of motion which can result in reduced pain and faster healing.
Some basic preventive measures may help reduce the risk of sciatica or prevent damage to the back, which can cause pain.
To summarise, conservative and manual treatment for sciatica is by far the safest and most effective form of treatment. Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve becomes compressed or irritated, sometimes due to a herniated disc in the spine. Strengthening the muscles and increasing flexibility in the area through exercises and regular Chiropractic adjustments may help speed recovery and prevent further injury. If you have any signs or symptoms of sciatica you should consider getting in touch with your local Chiropractor today.