Thou cold sciatica, cripple our senators, that their limbs may halt as lamely as their manners.” William Shakespeare, 1564

Back pain bothering you?

As you can see, Shakespeare wasn’t amused by sciatica in the slightest. Sciatica is a condition referring to the pain experienced when the nerve root that exits the spine is trapped in the lower back. Even just reading that sentence is enough to make you wince.

The sciatic nerve is one of the largest nerves in the body, and it begins as several nerve roots in the lower back, where it travels downwards to supply the lower limbs. This means that irritation or compression of these nerve roots can cause pain in the buttock, down the back of the leg and in the calf and foot, so there are plenty of unpleasant ways it can wreak havoc. No wonder old Bill hated it so much!

Often, the pain is described as shooting, a deep ache and an intense burning sensation. Sufferers may also experience weakness, numbness, pins and needles or tingling and difficulty performing certain movements of the leg or foot. Sciatica can present symptoms on one or both sides of the body. According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), sciatica is estimated to affect between 12-43% of people throughout their lifetime.

Why does sciatica give you pain?

So, why do these nerve roots get irritated in the first place? According to NICE, slipped discs are responsible for around 90% of cases of sciatica in the UK. However, there are a few other reasons that the nerve roots may become impinged, including, but not limited to:

  • Arthritis
  • Inflammation of the facets (joints at the back of the spine)
  • Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal).
  • The sciatic nerve can also be impinged by tight muscles in the legs and buttocks. For example, in some people, the sciatic nerve runs directly through a muscle in the pelvis called the piriformis muscle. If this muscle becomes tight, it can directly compress the sciatic nerve and give symptoms down the whole leg

Risk factors

There are certain activities that are known risk factors for causing sciatica. These include those that involve strenuous movements, such as running or heavy lifting, and using machinery that causes whole body vibration. You can help yourself avoid developing sciatica in the first place by ensuring that when lifting heavy objects, you employ good techniques and form.

Treatment for sciatica

The good news is that a lot can be done to improve sciatica and major interventions like surgery aren’t often needed. Non-surgical treatment tends to have good results. One study has shown that 50% of people suffering from sciatica improved with non-surgical care within 10 days, and this increased to 75% of people within 4 weeks1.
Sciatica is one of the most common issues we see at Swansea Body Kinetics, and we find that most people get better or at the very least, significantly improve within a few treatments.
In order to give the best care possible, we conduct a full musculoskeletal and orthopaedic examination to pinpoint the underlying cause of the sciatica. We then go on to treat the structures that we feel are causing the pressure on the nerve. This includes techniques to encourage blood supply and therefore healing to the disc, joint or suspected structure. We also use neural flossing techniques, which are specific exercises targeted towards neural health to get you moving in a way that will help keep your joints and nerves healthy and happy.
If you’d like to learn more about what we can do to help you, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’d love to hear from you!

Don’t just put up with pain…

There is no reason why you should put up with discomfort when help is at hand

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Van Tulder, M., Peul, W. and Koes, B. (2010) Sciatica: what the rheumatologist needs to know. Nature Reviews. Rheumatology 6(3), 139-145. [Abstract]


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