Sciatica Pain, Treatment & Physiotherapy Melbourne
Sciatica, also referred to as sciatic neuralgia or lumbar radiculopathy, is a set of symptoms characterized by pain or numbness in the lower back, buttock, different parts of the leg and even the feet. Sciatica takes its name from the sciatic nerve which runs from the lower back, through the buttock and all the way down the leg to the foot.
Some patients describe feelings of weakness or tingling too. In severe cases, sciatica can lead to difficulty moving or controlling the leg. Typically, sciatica symptoms are felt on one side of the body at a time.
Sciatica can be one of those conditions that ‘comes and goes’, or one that is persistent over time. Either way, effective advice and treatment is available from your Melbourne sports physiotherapist. The condition does not have to be a reason to stop playing sport, working or carrying on with everyday hobbies.
The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body and it can become irritated or compressed for various reasons:
Spinal problems including disc herniation, degenerative disc diseases, lumbar spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal canal that leads to compression), spondylolisthesis (disc displacement and scoliosis) and some types of arthritis are common culprits.
Facet joint inflammation, compression of the nerve from bony arthritic growths or a locked facet joint in the lower spine can commonly cause sciatica.
Muscle tightness in the gluteal region, particularly the piriformis, can create pressure on the sciatic nerve which causes sciatic symptoms.
Get treatment early. Research has shown that in early stages of sciatica, continuation of normal daily activities is an effective way to manage the condition (1 ).Your physiotherapist can provide treatment to relieve the pain. Physiotherapists are trained in techniques such as spine mobilisation which relieve pressure on the nerve roots to reduce pain sensations. Neural gliding (moving a nerve that is ‘trapped’ by surrounding soft tissue) is another technique used by physiotherapists to relieve the symptoms associated with sciatica.
Early intervention can help ensure minimal pain and disruption to daily life. In addition to hands-on treatment, your physiotherapist can also design a home exercise program you can do to reduce the severity and duration of sciatica symptoms. Starting each day with a few stretches that have been tailored to you can mean fewer appointments, less pain and better productivity.
Your physiotherapist can confer with other health care providers to ensure you are receiving the right type of treatment. It has been shown that when both GPs and physiotherapists have input into a sciatica treatment plan, results are better than when each practitioner works alone (2). Our physiotherapists at Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy are always happy to keep your GP up to date with your treatment and progress.
 Hofstee, DJ, Gijtenbeek, JM, Hoogland, PH et al. ‘Westeinde Sciatica Trial: Randomised Controlled Study of Bed Rest and Physiotherapy for Acute Sciatica’ (2002) Journal of Neurosurgery (Spine) 96, 46-49.
 Luijsterburg PA, Verhagen AP, Ostelo RW, van den Hoogen HJ, Peul WC, Avezaat CJ and Koes BW ‘Physical Therapy Plus General Practitioner’s Care Versus General Practitioner’s Care Alone for Sciatica: A Randomised Clinical trial with a 12-minth Follow-up’ (2008) European Spine Journal 17, 509-517.