SCIATICA is NOT a diagnosis, it is a symptom

by | Jan 11, 2019 | Biomechanics, Pain

So I have felt compelled to write a short blog post on this overused term “sciatica” and how frustrating it is when patients have been told this is what they have. As a patient it gives you no information other than telling you that your sciatic nerve is inflamed (at some point along its very long journey!!). And it absolutely tells you nothing about why it got there, and therefore you are completely disempowered to be able to do anything about it.

Unless you know the cause of your pain or issue, you will never be able to fix it, and escape from your “diagnosis”.

Often when people come to me in acute debilitating pain, they have been given the diagnosis of sciatica, often with a prescription for some high strength painkillers or anti-inflammatories and told to rest. Obviously you don’t want to be running any marathons at this time, but gentle mobility, movement, walking is needed.


Spinal and pelvic assessment Osteopathy

So, what is it?

Hayley our senior osteopath has written a nice succinct article on sciatica in one of our other blogs so do take a quick read of this. But sciatica is when the sciatic nerve becomes inflamed, compressed, pinched, irritated or annoyed at some point along its journey. It exits the spine right at the bottom in the lumbar and sacral area at the base of the spine, so can get irritated at its point of exit, or along its path, through the buttock and down the leg. However, unless we know why the nerve has become irritated we cannot get rid of it.

It is mostly caused by a change in load through the spine and pelvis, and often over a period of time, so the altered mechanics place pressure through the nerve or the spinal segments repetitively, and over time they become inflamed. Sometimes we are able to withstand quite a lot of compensation for a long time until a very small event tips us over the edge “the straw that broke the camel’s back”…. Something small like a sneeze, or something more significant like the growing bump through pregnancy.


Pelvis realignment techniques Osteopathy Pre and Postnatal

So we look at how you move, how you walk, how your spine moves, how your feet bare load. We assess how you sit, work position, how you carry your children, breathing, exercising….. We strive to find your own individual cause of the pain, in order to understand your body, and get rid of the cause, and therefore stay pain free for longer.

We look at the mechanical causes to the sciatic nerve becoming irritated so we can remove these and give you the information about your body, and why it happened, to give you the knowledge of what to do to prevent it coming back.


As osteopaths we use hands on treatment involving massage, stretching, articulations, mobilisations, acupuncture when needed/desired, and taping. We give you advice and exercises to do to prevent it coming back. Our aim is to empower you with the knowledge of your body, not just to get rid of the symptoms (although we do this too!!).



Sciatica is often present with PGP in pregnancy too, so you can experience Pelvic Girdle Pain in pregnancy and again, this can coincide with sciatic pain. This can often be because your body is trying to adapt to the pregnancy, but things are a little off balance. Your spine and pelvis may not quite be adapting to the mechanical changes needed with the growing bump, so we will address this too, and we work with women throughout their pregnancy, so you can come at any time. There’s no need to be in pain when you are pregnant. Please don’t just accept it as ‘normal’.


Acute pain?

We treat a lot of people at the acute “agonising” point of sciatica and can make huge differences within one appointment for many people who walk (or hobble/crawl) through our door. It really does work, and the NHS and NICE also support this. We are recommended especially for treatment of sciatica. Having hands on treatment, particularly at these early acute stages of the pain, where often you are completely locked and are unable to move very much, can stop the pain turning into a chronic back pain which is then far more complex and deeply woven into your whole body’s mechanics. Whilst you are waiting for your osteopathy appointment, getting on your hands and knees can be relieving in these acute spams. You can also try using frozen peas on the buttocks, or lower back, five to ten minutes at a time, as this can be really useful for reducing inflammation in these acute phases too.

Regular spasms?

People can sometimes have these acute spams every few months, or perhaps once or twice a year, then they forget about them, but they keep coming back. If this is you, then find out why you are getting them, there will always be an underlying reason, which we can get to and address, so that we prevent another one from occurring. So please come to us, even if you are not currently in pain. If you get these acute episodes regularly, then your body is trying to tell you something. Pilates can also help long term to help prevent the pain coming back.

We are here. We will find out the root cause of your pain, and help you to get rid of it. 

Come see an osteopath here and get to the crux of your pain. You will learn about your body, and what to do to prevent it coming back. We are on your side, and we absolutely love what we do.


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