This distressing condition is one of the commonest reasons that people seek osteopathic treatment. It is characterized by pain in the low back which radiates into the buttock, posterior thigh and calf and sometimes into the foot. The pain is usually unilateral and can be accompanied by numbness, pins and needles or a sensation of coldness.
There are several causes of sciatica but, in general, it is due to compression of one or more of the nerve roots that make up the sciatic nerve.
For reasons of space I cannot go into all the anatomy and pathology in this article and this information is readily available elsewhere on the net so I thought I would limit myself to some real-life advice based on what I see in practice.
1. Most cases of sciatica last from 6-8 weeks and only require further investigation and medical treatment if they are not making any progress within this time period. Serious causes are rare but do exist. If you are experiencing ANY unusual symptoms or your pain is worsening please make your doctor or osteopath aware of it as soon as possible.
2. Nerve pain is very difficult to treat and unfortunately even quite strong pain-killers may not be very helpful. There are other options for pain relief e.g. TENS machine, acupuncture and some other drugs which your osteopath can advise you on.
3. Even when sciatica does start to improve it seldom does so steadily and you may continue to experience odd bad days or nights. Try to focus on the overall picture and not feel that you are relapsing.
4. It is best to stay active and some of the best results I see in practice are with people who manage to do some walking and/or swimming once the worst of their symptoms are over.
5. If you find it difficult to get relief from your pain, some positions that may be more comfortable are ; kneeling with your elbows resting on a coffee table OR lying on the unaffected side with the lower knee bent and the upper leg straight and sloping down to the floor OR lying on your back with your knees bent and lower legs resting on a chair seat. Can’t guarantee they’ll work but worth a try!