Sciatica refers to pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling in the leg. It is caused by injury to or pressure on the sciatic nerve. This nerve starts in the lower spine and runs down the back of each leg. Sciatic nerve controls the muscles of the back of the knee and lower leg. It also provides sensation to the back of the thigh, part of the lower leg, and the sole of the foot.
Sciatica most commonly caused by a herniated disk. The gel-like centre (nucleus) of a disk may protrude into or through the disk’s outer lining. This herniated disk may press directly on the nerve roots that become the sciatic nerve. It also may happen as a result of the general wear and tear of aging. Typical symptoms include sharp shooting pain accompanied by pins and needles, numbness and weakness. Pain is often aggravated by sitting, bending, lifting, coughing or sneezing. In rare cases, a herniated disk may press on nerves that cause you to lose control of your bladder or bowel.
- Advancing age
- Being overweight
- Occupation: prolonged sitting/driving, carrying heavy loads, twisting
Sometimes sciatica goes away on it own. Treatment, if needed, depends on the cause of the problem. It may include exercises, medicines, and surgery. Physiotherapy for sciatica:
- Mobilisation techniques
- Modalities such as electrical stimulation, ultrasound and traction
- Extension, stabilisation and strengthening exercises
- Postural advice, including correction of poor lifting technique