The sciatic nerve is made up of a group of smaller nerves that originate in the low back and pelvis. It runs from the pelvis, through the buttock and down the back of the leg as far as the foot. As it runs down the leg, it gives off nerves that supply the muscles and skin.
Sciatica is when the sciatic nerve is squashed, causing symptoms such as pain, pins and needles, numbness and muscle weakness in the part of the leg supplied by the nerve. Symptoms can be quite mild, to excruciating, and can be brought on by an obvious injury, or can develop for no obvious reason. Sciatica tends to give pain, pins and needles and numbness more than wuscle weakness, but it varies greatly from person to person.
There are a number of reasons the nerve can be compressed but the main ones are :-
- Low back injuries such a disc injuries, swelling / inflammation and joint injuries.
- Piriformis syndrome, which is where the sciatic nerve is squashed by pressure from the Piriformis muscle. This is a complaint that can affect people who sit a lot, or athletes such a cyclists, triathletes and endurance sports athletes.
Depending on the cause of the sciatica, Osteopaths will use osteopathic techniques to take the pressure off the nerve. Treatment of the low back and pelvis unerpins this approach, looking to treat mechanical problems related to the injury. Treating other areas such as the mid-back and neck improves the healing by making sure the whole body is functioning as well as it can do. Incorporating advice on exercises, diet / nutirition, posture and lifestyle will also greatly add to the effect. There is no one approach, and how quickly treatment helps can vary. In some cases osteopathy may not be able to help. Sometimes furhter investigations such as MRI scans can be used to identify the cause of the nerve compression and the underlying injury.