Sciatica refers to pain that travels along the path of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve travels from the lower back through the hips and buttocks and down each leg.
What causes sciatica?
Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve becomes pinched. Often the cause is usually a disc bulge which puts pressure on the sciatic nerve as it exits from your spine, leading to sciatic pain. Less often, you may have ruptured (herniated) your disc, which will press on the sciatic nerve and create pain, local chemical inflammation and muscle spasm.
With ageing, previous trauma or overuse, you can gradually develop an overgrowth of bone, sometimes called bone spurs, which create localised inflammation, muscle spasm and pressure on the sciatic nerve.
More rarely, a tumour can put pressure on the nerve. Or diseases such as diabetes can damage the nerve.
Your expert practitioner will listen carefully and examine skillfully to distinguish the cause of your sciatica and then draw up a treatment plan to get you feeling better.
What are the Symptoms of sciatica?
Sciatica is a type of pain that occurs when there is pressure or damage to the sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in the body that runs from the lower back down to the legs. Sciatica symptoms can vary from person to person, but the most common symptom is pain that starts in the lower back and radiates down one leg.
The pain can range from a mild ache to a sharp, burning pain, and it can be accompanied by other sensations such as numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness in the leg or foot. The pain is usually felt on one side of the body, but it can also affect both legs in some cases.
How can I relieve my sciatica?
Give It Time: Be patient and understand that your body will heal at its own speed. Feelings of frustration, anxiety and anger will only slow down your progress and maintain the pain for longer. Sciatica is a common and rarely serious symptom, even when you have severe pain.
So, in the initial stages of severe pain or numbness, it’s all about controlling the pain and avoiding things that will aggravate your existing sciatic pain. The golden rule is ‘Motion is the Lotion’; keep moving. Bed rest can rapidly weaken your muscles. Don’t sit a lot, or the pain will get worse.
As soon as the severe pain begins to reduce, there are many ways you can help yourself, which you’ll find below. However, you’ll notice that we’ve excluded specific spine related exercises. We do routinely teach these, but only after we’ve assessed you, and it’s the right time to introduce them to you.
Keep Moving – do keep moving – whether you feel up to it or not! Alternate walking at home or outside as you begin to improve with short periods of rest or recovery. All of the evidence points to this as the most important thing you can do to help yourself. Please don’t wait till you feel ‘well enough’ to move!
Hot and Cold Packs: Hot and cold may be opposites, but both can help manage your pain. Cold treatment is usually best for an injury that just happened. Then, after about 72 hours, switch to heat.
To use cold therapy, wrap a cold pack or a bag of ice in a towel and apply it to the affected area for about 10-20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Be sure to remove the cold pack if it feels too uncomfortable or if you notice any skin irritation or numbness.
Heat therapy, on the other hand, is generally used for chronic conditions or injuries that have already started to heal. Heat can help increase blood flow and relax muscles, which can help relieve stiffness and pain.
To use heat therapy, apply a warm towel, a hot water bottle, or a heating pad to the affected area for about 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Ensure the heat source is not too hot, and avoid falling asleep with a heating pad on to prevent burns.
Over-the-Counter Medication: It is not our policy to provide advice on medication. However, there is no reason you shouldn’t use OTC medication – provided you have first spoken to your local pharmacist. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen, may help ease your pain as well as lower inflammation. This will mean you’re more able to stand up and move around!
Ask About a Prescription: If home remedies and OTC medications aren’t helping, and your pain is still severe and not improving, consider seeing your doctor.
Many prescription medications, like muscle relaxants and higher-strength NSAIDs, can better control severe pain. And as soon as you get pain relief, get up and move!
Work With a Manual Therapist – Osteopathy, chiropractic and physiotherapy has been shown to help manage back pain and sciatica. After 40 years of helping thousands of back pain and sciatica sufferers, we can probably help you too.
Through manual techniques, such as gentle spinal manipulation and mobilization, our osteopaths in Sutton Coldfield aim to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve and reduce inflammation in the surrounding tissues.
Your practitioner will create a personalised plan, including hands-on treatment and (probably) acupuncture. In addition, we will help you correct poor posture, relax muscles working too hard and strengthen muscles that support your lower back.
Give Acupuncture a Try: Acupuncture has a history stretching back 3,000 years, and it’s been used in this clinic for more than 40 years. This ancient Chinese medicine practice is now extensively researched by medical doctors worldwide. Some research shows that acupuncture may work even better than the traditional treatment for back pain.
Take a Yoga Class: As you start to feel better, you can incorporate yoga as part of you get well and stay well program. It may not be a cure-all, but it might help you feel better. Research shows that it cuts pain and lets you move around more easily.
Get a Massage: Don’t be surprised if we recommend Massage Therapy, as we’ve found it to be an invaluable part of the treatment plan for lower back pain and sciatica.
Research has shown that massage can help reduce pain, improve mobility, and promote healing in the affected area. In addition, massage can help increase blood flow to the area, which can deliver essential nutrients and oxygen to the muscles and tissues, helping them to heal more quickly. However, it can also relieve and release muscle tension, contributing to pain and stiffness.
Massage therapy can also have a positive effect on mental and emotional well-being. It can trigger the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which can improve mood and reduce stress levels. Additionally, massage can help reduce cortisol levels, a stress hormone that can contribute to inflammation and pain.
If you are experiencing lower back pain, incorporating massage therapy into your treatment plan can be a helpful step towards reducing pain and promoting healing.
All of our massage therapists are graduates who have undertaken full-time, three-year training at university. They are an integral part of our clinical team and attend all clinical training sessions alongside our senior practitioners.
Back Pain and Stress – Stress can significantly affect how we experience pain. When we experience stress, our muscles tend to tense up, exacerbating pain and discomfort.
One effective way to manage stress and reduce tension in the body is through diaphragmatic breathing. This technique involves breathing deeply from the diaphragm rather than shallowly from the chest. It has been shown to help reduce stress levels and promote relaxation, which can help alleviate pain.
To practice diaphragmatic breathing, find a quiet place to sit or lie comfortably. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Breathe in slowly through your nose, feeling your belly rise and expand as you inhale. Exhale slowly through your mouth, feeling your belly fall as you exhale.
In addition to diaphragmatic breathing, spending time outdoors and engaging in physical activity such as walking can also help alleviate stress and promote a sense of well-being. Spending time in nature has been shown to have a calming effect on the mind and body. At the same time, physical activity can help release endorphins, which are natural pain-relieving chemicals produced by the body.
By taking charge of your stress levels through techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing and spending time outdoors, you can help manage lower back pain and improve your overall sense of well-being.
When should I worry about sciatica?
Seek immediate help if you are experiencing any of the symptoms below:
- Have weakness or numbness in both legs that are severe or getting worse
- Have numbness around or under your genitals or around your bottom (anus)
- Find it hard to start peeing, cannot pee or cannot control when you pee – and this is not normal for you
- Do not notice when you need to poo or cannot control when you poo – and this is not normal for you
- Can’t feel yourself when you’re using toilet paper to wipe yourself
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Frequently Asked Questions
What happens during my initial consultation?
Our priority upon your arrival is to ensure that you feel welcome, comfortable, and well-informed about your appointment. Typically, your initial consultation will last between 45 minutes to an hour. One of our experienced osteopaths will meet you and begin by attentively listening to you. We will inquire about your general health, any current pain you may be experiencing, your medical history, medications you may be taking, and review any medical examination results.
After this initial discussion, we may conduct specific tests to make a diagnosis. You may be asked to perform some gentle movements to allow us to evaluate your posture and mobility.
Using this important information, we will then create a personalized treatment plan tailored specifically to your needs.
What will happen AFTER an initial consultation?
During your second visit to our clinic, we will provide a detailed explanation of our findings from your history and examination. By the end of this session, you will be able to answer several crucial questions, including:
- What is causing my symptoms?
- What are the available treatment options?
- How long is the expected recovery time?
- How much treatment will be necessary based on your personalized treatment plan?
- How much will your treatment cost?
- What can I do to help myself?
- What changes do I need to make to get better, faster?
We take the time to explain and clarify the causes of your symptoms and what can be done to alleviate them. At this stage, we will have created a personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.
What can I expect after my first treatment?
The response to treatment varies from person to person, as everyone is unique. The initial treatment is a crucial step in gauging the patient’s reaction to treatment and determining the best course of action to meet their individual needs.
Immediate relief may be experienced by some patients after the first session, while others may require multiple sessions to see significant progress. It’s vital for patients to realize that treatment is not a one-time fix and that it may take a number of sessions to achieve long-term results, particularly for chronic issues or long-standing musculoskeletal imbalances.
Is treatment painful?
The treatments themselves are not painful, but there might be some discomfort after the spinal manipulation as your body adjusts to the treatment and improved posture. This can result in stiffness in certain regions, which is a natural occurrence, and we recommend using an ice pack on the area for 10 minutes after your session and staying hydrated.
What causes the cracking sound during the treatment?
The cracking or popping sound heard during an osteopathic treatment is caused by the release of nitrogen gas from the joints. This is a normal and common occurrence and may not always happen depending on the technique used. The sound itself is neither significant or important to your progress.
What is the cost of the initial consultation?
The initial consultation is priced at £65, which comprises a thorough spinal evaluation including muscle and nerve testing, orthopaedic examination, as well as posture and movement analysis.
What is the cost of the each treatment?
Each treatment is £45 if you pay as you go. However, we do have discount options available depending on what works best for you.
What days and times are you open?
Monday – Friday 8am – 8pm,
Saturday – 8am – 2pm
Sunday – closed
How long will it take for me to feel better?
The length of time it will take to start to feel better varies a good deal between patients. This difference is based on several factors, including the how long you’ve had the problem and how severe it’s become, your lifestyle and demands of work and family as well as your individual capacity to respond to treatment.
Generally, patients with acute conditions (recent onset) may experience significant improvement within a few sessions, while those with chronic conditions (your symptoms have been present for more than 12 weeks) may require more treatment sessions to attain long-lasting outcomes.
The secrets to getting well are to always turn up for your treatment, follow the guidance of your practitioner and get involved in your own recovery. Don’t delegate your health to your practitioner. It is always a partnership!
What happens if I miss an appointment?
We recognize that we all have busy lives beyond the Backcare and Acupuncture Clinics, but please let us know as soon as possible if you are unable to keep your appointment, and we will make every effort to reschedule it for you. We will make every effort to accommodate your particular schedule