Osteopathy is an effective non-invasive treatment for sciatica that can avoid the need for an operation
More than 4% of the population suffer from sciatica symptoms at least once in their lives. Sciatica is used as a term for pain which travels down the back of the whole leg to the ankle and even into the sole of the foot.
It is called sciatica because it follows the route of the sciatic nerve. The sciatica nerve is the largest nerve of the body, whose width is as wide as a finger. The sciatic nerve leaves the pelvis and travels down the back of the leg past the knee and into the foot.
Sciatica is a symptom of a problem at the level of L4, L5, S1 &S2 nerve roots or the sciatic nerve itself.
It must be borne in mind that the term sciatica must not be mistaken for a diagnosis. It is a symptom. In effect it is Latin for a pain down the back of the whole leg. If a patient goes to his practitioner and complains of pain down the back of his leg and the practitioner tells him, he has sciatica. All the practitioner has done is translate the symptoms into Latin. As sciatica is only a symptom not a diagnosis. He has not yet determined the cause.
- Pain down the back of one leg with or without lower back pain
- Sciatic pain can be a sharp or dull pain. It may be so sharp the patient cannot move.
- Sciatica may be accompanied by numbness or paraesthesia (pins and needles) along the back of the leg and into the foot.
Possible Causes of Sciatica Pain
- Pressure on the nerve roots of the lower back as a result of a prolapsed disc (“slipped disc”) or degenerate disc (where the disc has thinned and the distance between the vertebrae is reduced causing pressure on the ensuing nerve root) . In these case osteopathy is successful in relieving the sciatic symptoms.
- Spondylolisthesis: Where one vertebra has slipped forwards with respect to the vertebrae below it. (Most common at the level of L4 on L5)
- Piriformis Syndrome: As the sciatic nerve leaves the pelvis it passes near a muscle that lies deep in the buttock called piriformis. In 10% of patients the sciatic nerve pierces the piriformis muscle and is liable to be squeezed by piriformis causing sciatic symptoms.
It has been known that a person’s wallet in their back pocket can cause piriformis muscle to contract and compress the sciatic nerve causing sciatic symptoms.
- Pregnancy: The postural changes that occur during pregnancy can cause pressure ont the sciatic nerve roots and/or piriformis contraction causing piriformis syndrome.
- Intra-pelvic disease: Pressure on the sciatic nerve during its course in the pelvis. For example compression by bony growth or intra-pelvic tumor. This is a rare cause.
How Osteopathy Effectively Treats Sciatica
Osteopathic treatment decreases the inflammation that surrounds the sciatic nerve, and improves mobility of the spine in order to decrease the pressure surrounding the nerve from a disc bulge. This can be done successfully by soft-tissue massage, gentle articulation and mobilization of the joints of the spine and stretching of the muscles in spasm surrounding the spine.
By improving mobility and decreasing the inflammation, a disc bulge will heal at a quicker rate.
Osteopathic treatment will decrease the recovery time, enabling the patient to get back on their feet quickly. The gentle manual treatment provided by the osteopath reduces the muscle spasm, inflammation, and nerve pressure, the primary pain producers. By mobilising the joints and soft tissues, osteopathic treatment aids in the prevention of scar tissue formation around the disc, a factor associated with recurring back pain.