At Summit Physiotherapy we treat lots of clients with nerve pain, and nerve symptoms….one of the most common nerve conditions being sciatica. In this blog we will help you to understand sciatica and the truth behind the myths. There are several myths regarding this common complaint, and we spend lots of time educating our patients. Here we discuss the myths behind it, the causes of it, and the best treatment options for it. Here we will help you understand it and know what to do if you or someone you know is struggling!
We find that a lot of our clients don’t fully know or understand what sciatica is. The diagnosis “sciatica” gets misused so often that it is no wonder that there is confusion. The Sciatic Nerve is one of the longest nerves in the body. It travels from our lower back, through our buttock and down our leg. Consequently there are several different areas that can be affected by this nerve.
There is a huge misunderstanding about sciatica. Patients who have a referred pain down the backside or legs have the belief that this is sciatica. This is not always the case and the true symptoms are more specific. Sciatica symptoms usually include neural (nerve) symptoms. Tingling, pins and needles and weakness in the backside, legs, feet and toes.
Another common misunderstanding is what causes the symptoms. We have many patients that have received a diagnosis of sciatica. However, many are mis-informed about the true cause. It is normally a set of symptoms caused by irritation within the lumbar spine and/or the sciatic nerve.
Sciatica is caused when the sciatic nerve is irritated. There are several spinal conditions which may be the true cause of your symptoms. Some of the most common spinal conditions include:
- Herniated discs of the lumbar spine (lower back)
- Lumbar degenerative disc disease
- Bone spurs
- Piriformis syndrome
- Spinal stenosis
- Spinal tumours (very rare cases)
If you have received treatment in the past for sciatica and struggled to see any improvements, it may be worth considering what is causing the symptoms, and then treat accordingly.
Two big myths that we see especially with sciatica are in relation to taking pain relief and rest.
Firstly, it is very important to be taking the correct pain relief, in the correct dosage if you are suffering with sciatica or sciatic related symptoms. A lot of people do not like to take pain relief and try to avoid taking it. But the truth is- if you are in that much pain (as a lot of people are when they suffer with sciatica) you need to take your pain relief. Not controlling the pain may only make matters worse and cause other problems!
The second common myth we see a lot in relation to the treatment of sciatica, is how much people should rest. Previously people were advised to rest as much as possible with sciatica. However, the truth is physical inactivity and too much rest may make your symptoms worse! In truth, Relative Rest is advised, avoid any activity that aggravates the symptoms. Moving at regular intervals, little and often, will help control your symptoms.
A third common myth of sciatica is that patients with sciatica only have symptoms in their legs and not in their back. We do tend to find that many patients have back pain aswell as sciatic symptoms, however this is not to say that if you only have sciatic symptoms with no back pain, then you are not suffering with sciatica.
Treatment Options for Sciatica
First of all, a very important truth about sciatica is that there are many treatment options for this condition. Sciatica can be due to several spinal conditions, knowing the root cause is key to deciding the best treatment option.
It is a huge myth that surgery is the only way to get rid of sciatica and the truth is there are many other ways to control your sciatica, with non-surgical interventions such as NSAIDs, stretches of the muscle groups around the sciatic nerve, gentle nerve stretches, and soft tissue treatment or sometimes injections. Consequently, non-surgical treatment is dependent on the route cause, there are many ways you can overcome your sciatica!
Surgical treatment for sciatica is generally a last resort, and surgeons may only consider surgical intervention if there is significant weakness or loss of function with the patient.
Contact Us for More help
Finally, if you are suffering with sciatica or know someone that is suffering with sciatica and you would like further advice or an assessment on your injury, please contact a member of the team at Summit Physiotherapy, and don’t carry on suffering!