Lower back pain is common. Whether it comes from a sporting injury, too much gardening, or simply bending over in the wrong way, many people will experience it during the course of their lives. When back injuries result in the sciatic nerve being pinched, it can lead to excruciating shooting pains, running from the lower back, into the leg and foot. This condition is known as Sciatica. The good news is Osteopathy treatments can help un-trap the nerve, release the pressure and reduce the pain.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a condition that affects the nerves in the lower back. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body, starting in the lower back and extending down to both feet. Sciatica occurs when the nerve becomes inflamed or pinched, causing you to experience back pain. Typically, the pain only affects one side of your body at a time, and may extend a small distance, or as far as your feet. Left untreated, sciatica frequently recurs.
What are the symptoms of Sciatica?
The classic symptom of sciatica is a shooting pain running down your leg, starting in your lower back or buttock. It can also cause weakness, or numbness, often accompanied by a tingling sensation, or pins and needles in your feet. Referred pain may present in the anterior or posterior thigh, down the side of the leg, or pain in the groin area. This may vary from a nagging dull ache to a strong pain, not necessarily with the classic shooting characteristic.
What causes Sciatica?
Sciatica is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve. This is sometimes triggered by the development of a herniated disc in the lower spine. When a disc becomes worn, through injury or overuse, the centre of the disc will push outwards, creating pressure on the surrounding nerves. Changes in the condition of the spine caused by osteoarthritis can also trigger sciatica. Aggravating factors include lack of regular exercise, being overweight or obese, and even wearing high heels.
How can an Osteopath help with Sciatica?
The first thing that a qualified osteopath will do is examination of the entire area, to establish the scope of the back issues and likely causes. This is important, because osteopathy treatments focus on treating the root cause of the problem, and not simply the area experiencing pain or discomfort. The osteopath will want to understand if there has been any previous injury, repetitive strain, surgery, illness etc, which may have an impact on the biomechanics of the spine, pelvis and hips.
Once a diagnosis has been made, gentle soft tissue mobilisation or manipulation can help to relax muscles and release the trapped nerves, whilst adjusting the position of the critical bones and joints. The aim is to reduce pain, improve joint mobility and increase the range of motion.
Osteopathy takes a holistic approach, meaning it considers the body as a whole. When treating a specific condition such as sciatica, an osteopath will take care of your whole body’s internal connections, ensuring that your general health benefits from the treatment, not just your back.
Managing Sciatica at home
In addition to the osteopathic treatment, your osteopath may recommend things to help manage the pain at home. This may include rest, the use of heat packs, gentle exercise and stretching, and improved postural changes. One important aspect of treating sciatica is to keep the affected area moving. It can be tempting to stop all activities, in an attempt to stop the pain recurring, however that may make the situation worse. Over-the-counter pain medication, taken within the recommended dosage, can help ease the symptoms. Time can be a great healer too, especially if the initial cause of the trapped nerve was a sudden movement.
In a situation where your sciatica or aligned symptoms get suddenly worse, you should seek appropriate medical advice immediately.
How can Carl Todd Clinics help?
Carl Todd Clinics have a team of qualified and experienced osteopaths, ready to help with your back issues. Osteopathy can treat a range of musculoskeletal problems offering effective pain relief for issues such as back pain, joint pain, headaches & muscular strains. Whatever the cause of your sciatica, don’t suffer in silence. Carl Todd Clinics are here to help. Please get in touch so we can discuss a suitable treatment program. We look forward to hearing from you.