By Amelia Son, PTA

What Is Sciatica?

The quick answer is Sciatica is pain that radiates into buttock and down the leg. However, it must be understood that Sciatica can be resultant from many different things.  The sciatic neve becomes irritated or pinched and the symptoms can be very painful.  To learn more, you can also read this article on sciatica and severe low back pain.

image of the sciatic nerve in the hip

Image of the sciatic nerve which is inflamed with sciatica

How Does It Occur?

The sciatic nerve is formed by spinal nerve roots stemming from the L4 to S3 vertebra. It is a large and bulky nerve that eventually exits the pelvis and runs down the back of the thigh, eventually making it down to the foot. Sciatica originates from the lower back and is caused by compression and/or irritation of the sciatic nerve.

What Are The Symptoms of Sciatica?

Sciatica has many symptoms that are common and patients can have one or more of the following:

  • Pain: It is usually a burning or shooting pain that can either be constant or intermittent. The pain originates in the lower back or buttock and can run down the front or back of the leg and even reach the feet.
  • One Side or the Other: Sciatica usually affects one leg at a time, but in rare cases can affect both.
  • Numbness: Another symptom of sciatica is numbness and tingling down the leg. The numbness and tingling can travel down in the thigh and can also be felt as low as the foot. With the numbness and tingling, some patients have a feeling of weakness that can affect their daily lives.
  • Posture: Some people struggle with different postures with regard to sciatic pain. While some may feel relief from standing, others may not and may prefer to sit. Others feel pain when bending over, twisting, and even lying down. Some relief has been known to occur while staying in motion like walking, but once stopped and standing still, symptoms may resume.
image of sciatic nerve in hip

The pinched human sciatic nerve or sciatica

What Are The Causes of Sciatica?

There can be many causes of sciatica. Some are more serious than others and may require intervention. The following are common causes for sciatica:

  • Lumbar Spinal Stenosis: A constriction of the space used for the nerves to exit the spinal cord and reach their designated space in the body
  • Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease: When the discs between vertebrae are damaged and/or degenerating causing back and/or radiating pain.
  • Muscle Spasm: A muscles normal protective mechanism to avoid overstretching and injury. Most spasms usually clear up on their own, but if they do not, it is best to seek out medical attention to make sure it is not a serious issue.
  • Herniated Lumbar Disc: When the jelly-like center of a disc pushes through the weaker outer layers and places pressure on nerves
  • Spondylolisthesis: A spinal defect that causes the vertebra to become unaligned in the spine and slip to one side or the other. This can usually cause back and/or leg pain in a patient.
  • Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction: When there is the improper movement of joints between the spine, sacrum, and pelvis. This can cause inflammation in the joints as well as pain in the lower back and down the legs.

Treatment for Sciatica

The treatment for Sciatica usually begins with physical therapy.  The program will include flexibility, manual therapy, modalities and strengthening exercises.  The goal would be to decrease the inflammation around the sciatic nerve and improve the range of motion.  Our therapists work closely with our physicians to design a treatment program with the best outcomes in our area.

Home Remedies for Sciatica

Often, patients ask us what can we do at home for sciatica?  The best thing that you can do to help with your treatment is to avoid activities and positions that irritate or cause pain.  Other home remedies are:

  1. Ice or Heat
  2. Over-the-counter medications like Tylenol or Advil
  3. Rice bags which heat in the microwave
  4. Voltaren Gel or Analgesic Creams
  5. SI Belts or lumbar belts
  6. Mild Stretching

To schedule an appointment at a JOI Rehab Center, please call 904-858-7045.  Learn about the JOI Rehab Fast Track Program to get you in right away for Physical Therapy.

To learn more about stretches for the sciatic nerve, please read 3 sciatic nerve stretches or How Long Does Sciatica Last? 

woman doing Sciatic Nerve Stretch grabbing knee

Piriformis Muscle Stretch for Sciatica

Sciatica is not something to take lightly, although some light stretching can often help with symptoms, it is best to get a professional opinion to discover what is the underlying cause of sciatic pain being experienced. Here at Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute, we have multiple spine surgeons that can help discover the root of the pain.  You can all 904 JOI-2000, schedule online, or click below.

Book An Appointment with a JOI Physician for sciatica.

Image of Book An Appointment with a JOI Physician Button.

By: Ehren Allen, PT 

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