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Sciatica – a Symptom, Not a Diagnosis

What is it and What Should I Do?

Sciatica – a Symptom, Not a Diagnosis

Any pain, sensation of numbness, dull, heavy ache which passes down the leg, which is presumed to come from the lower back or sciatic nerve is often diagnosed as sciatica.
Sciatica is not a diagnosis! Sciatica is a symptom of something causing the sciatic nerve to be pinched or compressed.  In my experience, muscle tightness and immobility are the culprits for the majority. However, the diagnosis may be a herniated disc for example. Therefore it makes sense that we need to identify the cause of the sciatic nerve compression to be able to treat the pain.

In the case of muscle tightness:  Since the sciatic nerve starts in the lower back and then splits running down through each buttock and then down the entire leg, it would make sense that any tightness in the muscles could potentially press or pinch the nerve. The nerve runs either under, or through both the piriformis which runs across the buttock and the hamstring at the back of the leg; if either muscle is particularly tight it causes the nerve to be compressed. In the case of Piriformis it can be known as Piriformis syndrome.

Always consult a health professional first; I would recommend going straight to a Physiotherapist to identify the cause of the nerve compression. You will be treated or referred on if necessary.

Top Tips

1. Stretch & Mobilize

Follow a simple routine of stretches, and mobilization of the lower back. Stretching the Lower Back, Piriformis and Hamstrings, and gentle mobilizing generally brings relief and thereafter should become a daily maintenance program. Our Daily Stretch 1 podcast covers all the essential stretches.

2. Avoid Repetitive Actions

Avoid repetitive type actions for extended periods of time; for example, leaning forwards from the hips and keeping the buttocks tight to support you; sitting for many hours at a desk.

3. Keep a Diary

Make a note of what brings on the sciatica; what have you been doing prior to the flare up and for how long? What gives relief? Avoid the movements that bring it on – do more of the movements that give you relief. While this may seem tedious it can really help your Health Professional reach an accurate diagnosis much faster.

Ultimately, YOU are your best CONSULTANT! Listen to your body and take note. Then, take control of your own condition.

Life is Motion™ – Keep moving!

Further Reading

For an excellent set of stretches, take a look at Bob Anderson’s book (see below).

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  • Gurvinder Bansal

    Just what I needed… I have recently been suffering from sciatic pain and this article has really helped to understand the condition. Additionally I have found the daily stretches and the daily workout 1(purchased from the member’s lounge) very helpful, a session of both of these totally gets rid of the pain and I feel completely pain free..

  • Bhavni Shah

    I suffered with sciatica three years ago and was lucky to be referred to a very good physiotherapist and osteopath, who both gave me exercises to do to help alleviate the pain. A few months later I started Pilates, which I truly believe has helped my lower back become stronger, and so far I have not had a relapse of sciatica.

  • rahul upadhyay

    Thank you for defining sciatica in brief.

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