Help! I’ve got sciatica!

Do you have an excruciating shooting sensation going down the back of your leg?

Do you have numbness or weakness down the back of your leg.

Does it keep you awake at night?

Do you find it difficult to do your normal daily activities because of this pain?




You could be experiencing a compression of the sciatic nerve – a symptom commonly called sciatica.

This term is used to describe symptoms of pain, numbness and/or weakness that radiate along the sciatic nerve from the lower back to the buttocks and the leg.

How long will these symptoms of sciatica last?

You will be pleased to know that for most people, sciatica is normally short-lived (a few weeks or months).


How will you cope with the pain?

Most people respond well to conservative management of sciatica and can find pain relief using stretching, exercises, and manual therapy. You may also be prescribed anti-inflammatory medication or opioids or muscle relaxants by your GP if the pain is particularly chronic or severe. Some people may require further intervention (epidural steroid injections or surgery) but only if the pain is very severe.


Should you rest up to help your sciatica?

Now you may believe that resting up for a few days is the best solution to help to relieve this pain that you are experiencing, but exercise is usually better at relieving sciatica. Without exercise and movement, the muscles and spinal structures in your lower back and pelvis become weaker and this deconditioning can lead to further injury and strain, which causes additional pain.


Why does exercise help?

  • It will reduce acute sciatic pain
  • It will help to improve leg, hip and lower back mobility and range of motion
  • It promotes soft tissue healing.
  • It improves sciatic nerve function.
  • It helps improve the condition of the muscle and soft tissue.
  • It can help to prevent, or at least minimise, the recurrence of pain in the future.


What exercises should you do?

This will depend on the cause of your sciatica. There are several main reasons that people experience the shooting sensation of sciatica, e.g., herniated discs, spinal stenosis, degenerative spinal discs, or slippage of one vertebra on another which causes compression of the nerves or spinal cord (spondylolisthesis).


These are the exercises you need to try:

  1. Stretch your hamstrings (those muscles on the back of your thigh)
  2. Stretching out the gluteal muscles (those muscles in your buttock)
  3. Strengthening the muscles of the lower back
  4. Strengthening the core muscles
  5. Improving your aerobic exercise capacity


If in doubt, always consult an experienced and trained professional to make sure that you are doing the correct exercises and that you have the correct diagnosis.


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