by Peter Culp
Sciatica is a term that has become wildly overused to describe discomfort in a leg. It has become an umbrella term incorrectly used as a “catch all” for back pain and leg pain. Low back pain typically has many components that are interacting with each other and is not simply a result of one specific thing.
Sciatica is typically presented as a pain beginning in the low back/hip that radiates down the back of the leg. The cause of sciatic can be a number of different reasons. It can be due to a herniated or degenerative discs in the low back, piriformis syndrome, or even neural tension.
What does sciatica feel like? • Shooting leg pain • Numbness • Tingling • Sharp burning pain • Difficulty moving legs & feet
The good news is that sciatica is relatively straightforward to treat. Narrowing down what specifically is causing the painful symptoms will lead to the best treatment option. Typically, the best treatment involves a combination of patient education, sciatic nerve glides, extension based activity and exercise, and manual therapy to improve function of low back musculature, piriformis, and hamstring function. With this being said, every patient is different and requires a unique approach.
An intense nerve pain that electrifies down the leg is nothing comfortable or easy to deal with on a daily basis. If you suffer from this type of pain there are nonsurgical or conservative options that will likely improve your symptoms. As overused as PT adages tend to be (motion is lotion and movement is medicine) they tend to be true. The more that someone moves in a safe manner, the less likely they will get injured and need therapy. So as the weather begins to get a bit cooler and it’s more difficult to be outside, keep exercising! Find a way to keep moving during the winter and it will serve you well.
Peter Culp, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist, TPI Golf Fitness Expert