Sciatica (common causes)

I talked briefly about Sciatica V Piriformis Syndrome in an earlier post, I hope to give you some help and guidance if you have been diagnosed with Sciatica.

Sciatica is a painful condition where the Sciatic nerve is impinged where it leaves the spine. There is usually some pathology that shows up on a scan confirming the diagnosis. The Sciatic nerve originates in the Lumbar and Sacral spine exiting at L4 – S3 where each root joins together and can be as big as your thumb at its largest portion.

The pain can be sharp or dull, numbness or tingling can be felt anywhere from the low back, buttocks, or down the back of the leg, in severe cases the pain can go under the foot.

There are many causes of sciatica and they need to be treated differently depending on the diagnosis. There are lots of posts online saying “Do these stretches to cure your Sciatica” for some the stretches will work wonders but for others there may be no decrease in pain or even an increase in pain. It is important to know what is causing the pain to have a chance of decreasing the pain. Unlike Piriformis Syndrome (discussed in an earlier post) for many struggling with Sciatica may have a degenerative condition that will worsen over time, this does not mean you can not improve your quality of life by adopting a maintenance programme of the exercises that work for you.

Prolapsed disc.

This is a common cause of sciatic pain where the intervertebral discs have bulged out between the vertebrae and pushes on the nerve. The most common prolapsed discs are between L4 – L5 and L5 – S1. Spine extension can help to relieve pain in prolapsed disc cases by encouraging the disc to return between the vertebrae under gentle pressure.


This is a narrowing of the area where the nerves exit the vertebrae and can be caused by trauma, wear and tear or over growth of bone from Osteoarthritis. Over the counter medication is usually the recommended treatment, if they don’t work your GP may prescribe stronger painkillers on prescription. Sometimes cortisone injections are offered but there is no known cure. Some people say that forward bending to open up the vertebrae gives then some relief.


This is where one of your vertebrae has slipped backwards off the one below, often caused by trauma, birth defect, arthritis or degenerative discs. Pain medication is usually prescribed along with Physical Therapy.  Heat and Ice can help with pain and inflammation; manual therapy will also help to reduce the inflammation and pain. In some cases an epidural injection or surgery is offered if all else has failed. A great self help exercise is a pelvic tilt.

Sciatica can be a short term condition once treated correctly by for many it is more about managing the condition to prevent it worsening.

Always consult your Dr before embarking on a new exercise routine to reduce your pain to ensure you are working safely and effectively.