416 Ilam Road, Fendalton, Christchurch 8052

Clinic Hours: Monday - Friday 7am - 8pm

416 Ilam Road, Fendalton, Christchurch 8052

Clinic Hours: Monday-Friday 7am-8pm

Can Osteopathy Help With Sciatica?

Published by Better Health Osteopathy on 16 March 2020, Back Pain

What Is Sciatica?

The term ‘sciatica‘ refers to pain, inflammation and neurological sensations associated with the sciatic nerve, most commonly presenting itself as pain radiating down the back of the leg. It most commonly occurs when a herniated disk or narrowing of the spine (spinal stenosis) compresses part of the sciatic nerve. The pain can be described as anything from a dull ache to a sharp shooting pain down the leg that can leave the person momentarily incapacitated.

Although the pain associated with Sciatica can be severe, most cases resolve within 6 weeks. However, some people who have severe Sciatica associated with significant leg weakness, foot drop, or bowel or bladder changes may require surgical intervention.



Symptoms Of Sciatica

People experiencing Sciatica may have a number of symptoms that could include any one or more of the following:

  • Throbbing pain in the lower back, buttocks or legs while sitting.
  • Pain in the buttock or down the leg.
  • Tingling, pins and needles or numbness in the calf or foot.
  • Muscular weakness.
  • Difficulty in moving or controlling the leg.
  • Lower back pain that is exacerbated when you cough or sneeze, or when driving in the car.

What Causes Sciatica?

Sometimes people are unaware that their symptoms relate to Sciatica, so it is helpful to understand what causes it. There can be a number of underlying conditions contributing to the pain associated with Sciatica, and these may include.

  • A herniated or prolapsed disc in the lower back (the most common cause)
  • Growths within the spine
  • Spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the nerve passages in the spine)
  • Piriformis Syndrome (spasm of the piriformis muscle located in the buttock region)
  • Trauma to the lower back
  • Pregnancy is also a common factor as during pregnancy the pelvis and lower back are placed under pressure as the baby grows.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for Sciatica include:

  • Age-related changes in the spine, such as herniated disks and bone spurs, are the most common causes of Sciatica.
  • By increasing the stress on your spine, excess body weight can contribute to the spinal changes that trigger Sciatica.
  • A job that requires you to twist your back, carry heavy loads or drive a motor vehicle for long periods might play a role in Sciatica.
  • Prolonged sitting. People who sit for prolonged periods or have a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to develop Sciatica than active people are.

How is Sciatica Diagnosed?

Your Osteopath can diagnose Sciatica after taking a detailed medical history and physical examination. MRI and other imaging are not normally required unless your symptoms are severe and we suspect that a corticosteroid injection or surgery may be required. If this is the case,  your Osteopath will make a referral to an Orthopaedic specialist and request an MRI. 

Complications of Sciatica

Although most people recover fully from Sciatica, Sciatica can potentially cause permanent nerve damage. Seek immediate medical attention if you have any bowel or bladder function loss.

How Can Osteopathy Help Sciatica?

An Osteopath is able to work towards relieving the symptoms of Sciatica by seeking out the underlying cause of the pain. In most cases, sciatic nerve pain can be improved by decreasing muscle spasms, improving joint mobility and overall spinal functional movement, thereby relieving stress on the affected areas. Treatments may include a combination of manual joint manipulation or articulation, muscle, or tendon manipulation to reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve.

Once the initial pain has been reduced, an Osteopathic treatment approach will include focusing on rehabilitation exercises with a view to preventing further episodes. This will involve an exercise regime that aims to restore mobility, build postural strength and encourage muscle activation.

What Can I Do To Help My Injury?

  • Avoid heavy lifting, pulling, and dragging activities such as at work, in the house, or at the gym during the acute stage.
  • Avoid long periods of sitting and driving as this can potentially add too much load to the injured disc. 
  • Avoid gardening activities during the acute stage. 
  • Continue with your osteopathic treatment plan, which will help promote healing and reduce inflammation.  
  • Remain positive, as the vast majority of disc injuries will heal without the need for surgical intervention.  
  • Consult your GP about medication such as anti-inflammatories which could help to ease the inflammation in your low back.
  • Stay mobile – walking and gentle stretching can be good for your back. 
  • Your Osteopath will prescribe rehabilitation exercises once the acute stage settles down. It is important to follow through on your rehabilitation program.

If you are struggling with sciatic pain – please do not hesitate to contact the Osteopaths at Better Health Osteopathy in Christchurch today. Call 027 755 5700 or book online.

Better Health Osteopathy

Lorraine Herity is the Clinic Director of Better Health Osteopathy in Christchurch, New Zealand. She previously worked in Osteopathic clinics in London and Ireland, before moving to New Zealand. Lorraine trained at the British School of Osteopathy in London, where she gained her Master of Osteopathy (M.Ost). Lorraine is a dedicated and passionate Osteopath. Her main aim is to help her patients regain their health and to return her patients back to their everyday activities, in as quick a time as possible. Lorraine is also a clinic tutor on the Osteopathic Course in Ara and relishes the opportunity to teach the next generation of osteopaths.