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Do You Have Sciatica?

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Our physio and Bristol Manager Leanne reveals how a tailored treatment plan is essential for the successful treatment of sciatica.

 “I have sciatica. I know I have because I have the same symptoms that my brother-in-law had last year…”


This statement usually fills physiotherapists with apprehension as the term ‘sciatica’ is fast becoming overused. I think it’s because back pain and back pain accompanied by leg pain are such common conditions. Sciatica is one condition that is likely to motivate a patient to see their doctor or physio as it’s so painful. In actual fact, sciatica is a generalised diagnosis that in it’s truest form, means any condition in which the sciatic nerve is irritated and causing problems or pain. However, not everyone’s experience of sciatica will be the same. One person may experience shooting pains right down the leg into the calf, whilst another might be experiencing tingling in the outer shin but nothing else. Someone might be complaining of pain just in the buttock with prolonged sitting, whilst another gets pain in the back of the leg if they bend over.

No Two Are the Same

The sciatic nerve can be irritated in so many different ways, which means that everyone’s experience of sciatica is different. This is partly because the sciatic nerve takes a winding, B-road style of path through the tissues of the body. It exits out of the spine via a small gap between the vertebrae, right next to a disc. Then it travels deep through the buttock muscles (including the piriformis muscle in the buttocks) and on into the back of the thigh between the hamstring muscles. It splits here and part of it winds closely around the outer bony prominence of the knee (the fibula head) and on into the lower leg and foot. Even more confusingly, this path can vary from person to person. No two paths are identical and we are all made slightly differently. In the same way that we can all appear differently on the outside, each of our sciatic nerves looks slightly differently on the inside too.

Treatment Must Be Tailored to You

You’ll feel symptoms of sciatica depending on where the sciatic nerve has been irritated. It may be that the disc has put some pressure on the nerve as it passes by, a certain muscle it passes through or near has become tight or bigger and is pressing on it, or it may be that it has become irritated somewhere along its path by inflammation from another injury. The treatment we choose for one person’s sciatica will potentially be completely different to another person’s sciatica for these reasons. Treating everyone’s piriformis muscle in an attempt to treat sciatic pain will not always work, as this may not be where the problem lies. Individualised and targeted treatment, aimed at the right structures is vital to see improvement in symptoms and better function. Make sure that you don’t get the same generic treatment for your sciatica by seeing a specialist physiotherapist for assessment and treatment.

To arrange an appointment with one our specialist musculoskeletal physios, contact us today!

More detailed information about sciatica can be viewed by clicking here.