Sciatica is the general term for symptoms-mostly numbness/tingling/burning- that occur in the low back and down the back of our leg. We mostly hear it being associated with terrifying diagnoses and terms such as bulging disc, degenerative disc disease, piriformis syndrome and the list goes on. I will touch more on this below.
Simplified, the sciatic nerve is a big nerve that starts in our lower back, goes down through the back of the leg then splits into 2 nerves that go into our foot. It is responsible for the movement and feeling in the back of our lower leg and foot. Again, simplified.
It is important to note that the issues mentioned above (e.g, disc bulge, degenerative disc) occur in the majority of the population and people have no sciatic symptoms or pain! So we can not say for certain that these imaging findings are causing your pain. What we do know, is that nerves require a lot of oxygen to function optimally (20% of our total oxygen intake goes toward our nervous system). So no matter how the symptoms are occurring, movement is key.
Movement = Bloodflow
Bloodflow = Oxygen
Oxygen = Happy Nerves
So where do you start if you are experiencing sciatica type symptoms?
Some tests that we perform are to determine how sensitive the sciatic nerve is to movements that restrict it of oxygen. If these are positive, then we typically give exercises that mobilize the sciatic nerve to get it more oxygen and get it used to moving again. This can look very different depending on how sensitive things are. However, if you look at our nervous system, you will realize that there are numerous ways to work into mobilizing the sciatic nerve- there is always a starting point. It is also very important to understand that just because you feel something abnormal along the sciatic nerve pathway, this doesn’t mean there is damage to the nerve or you. Hurt does not equal harm.
It is recommended to get a full detailed assessment of your experience. How sciatica is impacting you and the things you enjoy that you might be missing out on, what you are currently able to do, movements that you can do and movements that are challenging. Coming up with an appropriate progressional plan of movements/exercises that relate to your goals is a good starting point to help you return to the things that make you happy.
If you have any questions or are experiencing any sciatic symptoms please do not hesitate to reach out to our team.
-Tyler Dillman – Physiotherapist at One to One Wellness