Sciatica is pain originating from the sciatic nerve and the pain is felt anywhere from the buttock to the thigh, calf or foot. Nerve pain can be severe, shooting, burning, electric-shock like and tingling. It is often aggravated by movement but can be present at rest. Often our clients describe it as a “hot poker” or “feels like running hot water down your leg”.
We see sciatica a lot in the clinic and have this condition present to us on a daily basis. Many describe their condition as a problem with the sciatic nerve but the truth is that sciatica is a smoke screen, a disguise, a veil cleverly masking the real issue. Sciatica is the symptom, it is not the cause.
The most common misconception is the misleading belief that sciatica is back pain. Sciatica is not just back pain. If you only have back pain you most likely do not have sciatica. The back can also refer pain into the leg which is not nerve pain. This is where the confusion often lies as the treatment can be different.
Most cases of sciatica will improve within 6-8 weeks. Those that don’t resolve in that time will be because there is a more severe cause that requires a longer recovery time or the root cause of the sciatic pain has not been properly identified. This is often the client we see who has struggled for longer than necessary, trying search engine suggestions and using Youtube and tips from friends to relieve the pain but has not been able to treat the root cause.
We had Sarah in last week who was a keen 5km runner, mother of three kids who works part time from home, and has been suffering with sciatica for over 12 months. Throughout that time the pain had varied, some weeks it feels ok, others it re-appears and presents worse than before. She had tried exercises, had long periods of rest, and even seen another physiotherapist without much success. This is a common story for us.
Sarah (not her real name), was very frustrated, her exercise levels had dropped, she was increasing her weight and losing a bit of self confidence. She just wanted to get back to enjoying her 5km runs 2-3 times per week. It was her time to herself, her protected space to switch off and get her endorphin fix to help with patience with the kids.
We know that many patients look for how they can treat their sciatica at home, search engine queries are awash with sufferers hoping to find THE exercise that will miraculously ease the pain. Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist, nor does a filter on your search engine to tell you which information is relevant and appropriate for you in the stage of the condition that you are suffering from.
Uncovering the cause
As therapists we are detectives seeking out the true cause. This too can be elusive but we have a trump card. Generalisations are dangerous when trying to get to the heart of the problem. We know that the root of your sciatica is as individual as you are. What is causing the pain is different for everyone, how their lifestyle impacts upon this underlying condition and the sciatica symptom is different for everyone and the best treatment plan that will empower, motivate and be sustainable is different for everyone.
The path to recovery is not the same for everyone, but a path does exist. We can help guide you and support you on the way. We know how to navigate the various routes to the destination of resolving this injury and ensuring it does not return again in the future.
Here at Optimal we try much to steer clear of broadcasting “magical” exercises that might help this condition or that pain. We do not hand out silver bullets and quick fixes because we know that ultimately they don’t work. They don’t encompass each patient’s lifestyle, motivations and crucially the physiology, health issues and we prefer to create the most effective treatment plan for the individual patient.
Once we can work with a client, ask the right questions and build the right treatment plan then recovery can begin and sciatica and any issues it stems from will be foiled again.
And it would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for our amazing but pesky physiotherapist’s.
So if you’re struggling with sciatica, or know someone who is, ask them to give us a call on 0333 3010205. We would love to help and get them on the road to recovery as soon as possible.