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Sciatica, Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Sciatica is the name given to pain caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve that irritates this nerve can cause pain, the cause of ranging from mild to severe sciatica is a compressed nerve in the lower spine.

Sciatica Causes

Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve becomes pinched, usually by a herniated disc in your spine or an overgrowth of bone(bone spur) on your vertebrate. 

More rarely, the nerve can be compressed by a tumor or damaged by a disease such as diabetes.


Risk Factors for Sciatica

Risk factors for sciatica include:

  1. Age
    age-related changes in the spine like herniated discs and bone spurs are the most common causes of sciatica.
  2. Obesity
    By increasing the stress on your spine, excess body weight can contribute to the spinal changes that trigger sciatica.
  3. Occupation
    A job that requires you to carry heavy loads or drive a motor vehicle for long periods might play a role in sciatica but, there is no conclusive evidence of this link.
  4. Prolonged sitting
    People who sit for prolonged periods are more likely to develop sciatica than active people are.
  5. Diabetes
    This condition, which affects how your body uses blood sugar, increases your risk of nerve damage.

Symptoms of Sciatica

The main symptom is a shooting pain anywhere along the sciatic nerve from the lower back, through the buttock, and down the back of either leg.
Other common symptoms of sciatica include:

  • Numbness in the leg along the nerve
  • Tingling sensation (pins and needles) in the feet and toes

This pain can range in severity and may be aggravated by sitting for long periods.

Diagnosis of Sciatica

When in the physical exam, your doctor may check your muscle strength and reflexes.
For example, you may need to walk on your toes or heels rise from a squatting position.
And, while lying on your back lifts your legs one at a time.
Pain that results from sciatica will usually worsen during these activities.

  • Imaging Tests

    Many people have herniated discs or bone spurs that will show up on X-rays and other imaging tests but have no symptoms.
    So doctors don’t typically order these tests unless your pain is severe, or it doesn’t improve within a few weeks.

  • X-ray

    An X-ray of your spine may reveal an overgrowth of bone (bone spur) that may be pressing on a nerve.

  • MRI

    This procedure uses a powerful magnet and radio waves to produce cross-sectional images of your back.
    An MRI proceeds a detailed picture of the bone and soft tissues such as herniated discs.
    During the test, you lie on a table that moves into the MRI machine.

  • CT-Scan

    When a CT is used to image the spine, you may have a contrast dye injected into your spinal canal before the x-rays are taken.
    A procedure is called a CT myelogram.
    The dye then circulates your spinal cord and spinal nerves. Which appear white on the scan.

  • Electromyography (EMG)

    this test measures the electrical impulses produced by the nerves and the responses of your muscles.
    This test can confirm nerve compression caused by herniated discs or narrowing of your spinal canal also called spinal stenosis.


Sciatica Treatment

If your pain doesn’t improve with self-care measures, your doctor might suggest some of the following treatments.

  1. Medications
    The types of drugs that might be prescribed for sciatica pain include:
    . Anti-inflammatories
    . Muscle relaxants
    . Narcotics
    . Tricyclic antidepressants
    . Anti-seizure medications
  2. Physiotherapy
    Once your acute pain improves, your doctor or a physiotherapist can design a rehabilitation program to help you prevent future injuries.
  3. Steroid Injections
    In some cases, your doctor might recommend an injection of a corticosteroid medication into the area around the involved nerve root.
    Corticosteroids help reduce pain by suppressing inflammation around the irritated nerve.
  4. Surgery
    This option is usually reserved for when the compressed nerve causes significant weakness.
    Loss of bowel or bladder control or when you have pain that progressively worsens or doesn’t improve with other therapies.
    Surgeons can remove the bone spur or the portion of the herniated disk that’s pressing on the pinched nerve.

Signs of Sciatica

Sciatica is – we often think of sciatica more as a syndrome rather than as a pure diagnosis in itself.
But sciatica is commonly where the disc itself compresses on the nerve in the lumbar spine and that affects the functioning of the nerve.
In which case you either have pain or changes in sensory or motor ability down the leg.
Now the interesting part about sciatica and why it can often be described as a syndrome is, it is not always a disc that causes those changes to the nerve.
You can have restrictions and movement, specifically within the foraminal space where the nerve exits the spine.
Tethering or adhesions along the pathway or the tract of that nerve can again restrict the ability or affect the ability of the nerve, which again can produce sciatic-like symptoms. Compression from soft tissue, such as muscles that are tight or sitting in an awkward position, or on your wallet, or several other aspects can again compress on that nerve and produce sciatica-like symptoms for some people.
We can often have what’s referred to as a double compression syndrome which is where two points along that channel that the nerve runs are restricted and the combination of the dual restriction causes sciatic-like symptoms.
The last one which is also a possibility is that the nerve itself is irritated or inflamed such as in neuritis which would cause pain up and down that leg or along with the distribution of the nerve, again producing sciatic-like symptoms.

Common presentation, as we’ve touched on, is a pain in the spine that radiates down the back of the leg. Typically it does only affect one side.
If it’s affecting both sides, then it does raise the concern level that a therapist would have, and we would be looking to ascertain what other things are potentially going on.
Pain areas. Buttocks, hip, and lower extremity.
The pain can be mild, can be severe, can be sharp, can be Lansing. So many descriptors are often used to describe sciatic-like symptoms.
Numbness, pins and needles can be present.
Often people talk about them within their foot, specifically toes, ball of the foot, again depending specifically on the nerve and the pathways which are being affected.

Burning sensations, leg weakness and limping are also other common findings for this condition.

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3 Safe Exercises For Sciatica Pain Relief

Do you have sciatica pain?We give you three exercises to relieve your sciatica symptoms.

Sciatica can be an extremely debilitating and painful condition.
The definition of sciatica is the tightening of the veins on the back of the leg, which are usually visible below the knee, so there are various exercises that you can do, but it is very important to do the correct exercises that are appropriate for your type of sciatica, and you should avoid doing wrong movements. 
Because the wrong exercises can increase your pain or even damage your leg veins and this is the pain that we don’t want to increase, so if the leg pain increases when we are doing these exercises, it should be Stop it and it’s not good exercise for you.

  • Standing Extension

The first exercise we know, and probably the easiest to do, is that most sciatica or disc problems occur through flexion, so a single action through extension can often improve or relieve many symptoms.
It got rid of it. This is a basic exercise where you stand and take your hands, place them right on the small of your back, and work through the stretching exercises.
The back muscles are actually pushing forward with your hands, so you take your hands here and push your pelvis forward and out as far as it feels comfortable, do this repeatedly, and the second idea to reduce your pain is on the leg pain and when you do that you feel the leg pain increase, you need to stop, that’s not a good exercise perspective and it can make your symptoms worse, So you go through it again where the hands are on the belt line or just above your hips and you just push yourself forward as far as you feel comfortable and at first you might not be able to push too hard because it might be a little painful. But again, we’re not looking to increase the pain as you get easier, generally, we have people doing sets of ten of these.

  • Cat & Cow

the next exercise Cat & Cow

Another of the safest exercises to do is the cow cat movement, which can move the spine without putting too much pressure, but again, you should limit it based on your pain and what you feel.
If you want to go down, you have to put your hands on your shoulders, knees under your hips, then what we do is we start by going up and down and the movement comes from your hips so you can tilt back Slowly and then you can tilt the pelvis forward.

We look to explore this range of motion very slowly and if we see pain, we stop and go the other way.

We never push into pain; we seek that pain-free zone and stay there.
You may notice within a few days of doing this that the area starts to expand as you feel better, so you go up and down and gently pull that beautiful cat back and you go down, we fall into that cow.
Or that camel stretch and again.
We’re just trying to decompress that spine, we’re trying to take some of the load off and we’re just trying to make things better, you don’t want to feel a growing pain again and not feel the leg pain, so if you get in this position and it starts activating or triggering your radicular pain or sciatica going down your leg, you need to get out of it, it’s not a good stretch or exercise for you.
We generally do 10 to 15 of these and it’s an exercise that’s generally a very safe exercise, so we can usually do it several times a day.
We are looking to increase the range of motion while doing it and reduce pain.

  • Prone Press Up

The next exercise we’re going to do is a prone push-up similar to what we did when we were standing on the floor.
Lying on your stomach, you first go to your forearms and slowly lift yourself up. 

The key here is to relax your back, you want to keep this position as comfortable as possible and just keep those hands under your chest so you don’t feel like you’re using your back muscles to pull yourself up.
It’s not like yoga where you use the back to lift this yoga, we just lean there and let this yoga relax, so again you may feel a little discomfort in the lower back which is normal for most people at first. But it shouldn’t increase, and you definitely shouldn’t feel pain if it enters 

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Physiotherapy in Richmond Hill


Our mission is to provide the highest quality preventive and rehabilitation services to help you recover from musculoskeletal and sports-related injuries. The Clinic’s core values include integrity, respect, and professional growth and development dedication. Every patient is given personal attention and a custom solution tailored to their individual needs and goals.
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Physio2Health Clinic offers a wide variety of holistic therapies in a quiet and relaxed atmosphere to maximize your health and well-being. Our friendly, professional, and fully qualified therapist teams are here to help you either seek relief from injury or illness or wish to maintain your health. 

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