Sciatica: A Pain in the Butt

“I have this leg pain. I talked to my friend who had the exact same thing and her doctor said that it’s sciatica. She showed me her exercises and I gave them a try. They seemed to make things worse. Mine must be really bad! I guess I’ll just have to live with the pain.”

The above scenario is all too common and all too wrong!

  1. There are many potential causes of sciatica and there are many causes of leg pain which may not be sciatica at all. Sciatica is a very board term. The sciatic nerve is a long structure stemming from smaller nerves in your back that join together and run all the way down your leg. It can become pinched or irritated anywhere along this chain.
  2. You do not need to see a physician to diagnose your sciatica. A physical therapist can complete tests which will tell if the sciatic nerve is involved and the cause of your pain. If not, they will complete additional testing to find out what is. Since physical therapists work closely with physicians, we will refer you to them if further medical testing (ie. x-rays) are indicated.
  3. If your physical therapist does in fact diagnosis you with sciatica, it shouldn’t stop there. Additional testing will tell them where the source of the nerve irritation is. The same exercises that work for a disc bulge are going to be very different from those that help with a stiff spinal segment, spinal degeneration, unstable spinal spinal segment, or tight musculature—all of these things can cause sciatica. When seeing a physical therapist, your entire treatment plan, including home exercises, is tailored to your specific assessment findings to target the source of your pain.
  4. In most cases, it is NOT something you have to live with! There are many things that can be done to treat sciatica. A visit to a STRIDE physical therapist will include: Assessment and diagnosis, manual “hands-on” treatment, education as to specific positions or tasks to avoid, a few home exercises to help you take control of your health and manage your pain.

Signs and Symptoms of sciatica:

  • pain from the low back down through the buttock and back of the leg.
  • you may or may not have numbness and/or tingling in the lower leg or foot.
  • usually affecting only one leg.

If you suspect you may have sciatica:

Step 1: Book an appointment with your STRIDE physical therapist! 😉

Step 2: Follow your therapist’s recommendations.

Step 3: Enjoy life free of sciatica!

**If you notice severe or worsening pain, substantial leg weakness, or trouble controlling your bowels or bladder, see your physician immediately.