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What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is a condition characterised by pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which branches from your lower back, through your hips and buttocks, and down each leg.

What are the Causes of Sciatica?

Sciatica can result from various factors, including herniated discs, spinal stenosis, or other issues affecting the sciatic nerve. The most frequent cause is a herniated or slipped disc in the spine, where the gel-like material within a disc leak and presses on the nerve.

In addition to ruptured discs or spinal stenosis, other medical, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can cause sciatica pain include:

  • Piriformis syndrome
  • Pregnancy
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Injuries such as pelvic fractures and spinal injuries
  • Tumors
  • Infections
  • Lyme Disease
  • Sitting for long periods of time
  • Carrying heavy loads
  • Obesity
  • Age
  • Clothing

What are Symptoms of Sciatica?

Common symptoms of sciatica include sharp pain, tingling, or numbness along the sciatic nerve pathway. This can extend from the lower back down to the leg, and in severe cases, it may be accompanied by muscle weakness.

Other symptoms of sciatica include:

  • Varying pain ranging from dull to sharp
  • “Electric shock” feeling
  • Numbness (“pins and needles”)
  • Burning or tingling sensation
  • Weakness

What are Risk Factors for Sciatica?

Risk factors for sciatic pain include:

  • Age: The wear and tear of aging can increase your risk.
  • Obesity: Extra weight can put extra pressure on your spine, which can lead to sciatica.
  • Smoking: Studies have linked cigarette use to lumbar pain, including sciatica.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes has been linked with musculoskeletal conditions, including sciatica.
  • Stress: Psychological conditions such as stress have been found to cause physical conditions, including sciatica.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: People who drive a vehicle or sit at a desk for most of the day are at risk.
  • Driving: In addition to sitting for long periods of time, the vibration of the vehicle can cause problems.
  • Physical exertion: Lifting heavy loads, such as at work or in the gym, can increase your risk of developing sciatic pain.

How is Sciatica Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of sciatica typically involves a thorough medical history, physical examination, and sometimes imaging studies. Your GP can assess symptoms, such as pain, numbness, or weakness in the leg. Imaging tests like x-ray, MRI, or CT scans may be used to identify the underlying cause, such as disc herniation or spinal abnormalities.

A comprehensive diagnosis will guide treatment options, which may include medication, physiotherapy, or in severe cases, surgical intervention.

Physiotherapy Treatment for Sciatica

Effective management of sciatica often involves physiotherapy, which may include low-impact aerobic exercises, strengthening exercises, and stretching exercises. These targeted exercises aim to alleviate pain, improve flexibility, and enhance overall strength to achieve full recovery.

If you are seeking physiotherapy treatment for sciatic pain, make an appointment with a UPMC physiotherapist today. No referral is required. View our list of locations below for physiotherapy services close to home.

UPMC Physiotherapy Locations

We offer physiotherapy services to treat sciatic pain at the following UPMC locations:

Make an Appointment

You do not need a referral to make an appointment with one of our physiotherapists. To schedule an appointment with UPMC Physiotherapy Services, please contact us at one of the locations listed above.

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