What is Sciatica? How can Bowen Therapy assist?
Sciatica (/saɪˈætɪkə/; sciatic neuritis, sciatic neuralgia, or lumbar radiculopathy) is the term used to describe a set of symptoms including pain caused by general compression or irritation of one of five spinal nerve roots of each sciatic nerve—or by compression or irritation of the left or right or both sciatic nerves.” – Bhat, Sriram (2013). SRB’s Manual of Surgery. p. 364. ISBN 9789350259443.
In short – Sciatica refers to irritation of the sciatic nerve that arises from nerve roots in the lumbar spine.
The most common cause of sciatic nerve irritation, or “true” Sciatica, is compression of one or more of its component nerve roots due to disc herniation or spinal degeneration in the lower lumbar region. Sciatica usually begins in the buttock area and, depending on the severity of the underlying nerve compression and inflammation, may extend down the entire leg to the ankle and foot.
Symptoms of Sciatica
The main symptom of sciatica is pain. Usually one leg, buttock or one side of the lower back is affected. Other symptoms include the following:
- Cramps in the thigh
- Tingling or burning sensation in leg
- Numbness in part of sole, lower leg, thigh or buttock region
- Leg muscle weakness
- Problems with leg movement or controlling leg
- Severe pain when exposed to cold weather
- The pain feels better when the patient sits down or lies down
- Lower back pain
- Pain worsens when the person stands up after sitting down
- Sneezing or coughing worsens the pain
- Discomfort along the lower back, buttock, thigh, calf right down to the foot of the affected side
- Atrophy of the calf/leg muscles
Causes of Sciatica
There are many causes of sciatica. It occurs due to compression of the lumbar nerves (L3, L4, L5) or the sacral nerves (S1, S2, S3). It may even occur due to pressure on the sciatic nerves.
The causes of this compression or injury to the nerve include:
- Herniated Spinal Disc: When the cushioning disc between the vertebra of the spine ruptures, it leads to herniated spinal disc. Thus, the nerves are compressed by the discs leading to pain, weakness and numbness in the affected part.
- Spinal Stenosis: Narrowing of the spinal canal leads to pressure on the nerves leading to sciatica.
- Spondylolisthesis: Slipping of the one vertebra out of line from the other vertebra leads to spondylolisthesis. This causes the opening of the vertebrae to become narrow causing compression of the nerves passing through it.
- Piriformis Syndrome: A small muscle in the buttocks becomes tight and leads to compression of the sciatic nerve.
Other causes of sciatica include obesity, exercising aggressively, pregnancy, sleeping in an uncomfortable position, wearing high heels for very long periods, etc.
A physical examination and medical history, as well as the symptoms stated by the patient help the doctor diagnose sciatica. For confirmation, the doctor may carry out certain tests, these include:
- Straight leg rising test: Patient is asked to raise his/her leg. If pain is experienced, it may indicate sciatica.
- CT Scan
- MRI Scan
As mentioned above Piriformis Syndrome can cause symptoms which present as sciatic dysfunction however the diagnosis of “True Sciatica” or Piriformis Syndrome is important as the effective treatment of the two conditions varies significantly.
Typical Allopathic Sciatica Treatment
The Allopathic approach to the treatment of Sciatica would include the prescription of medication such as anti-inflammatories or muscle relaxers. Epidural steroid injections are given to some patients around the nerve root region. In extreme cases, where the bone pinches the nerve such that it leads to severe pain, urinary incontinence, bowel weakness and other problems, surgery may be advised.
Bowen Therapy Sciatica Treatment
Bowen Therapy works holistically to address dysfunction throughout the body. The treatment will therefore not only address the symptoms (pain, tingling, numbness) associated with the presentation of Sciatica but will also resolve musculoskeletal function throughout the body, addressing the cause of the Sciatic nerve compression. This holistic approach allows for other areas of the body to benefit from the treatment as well, helping the body to function at its perfect potential.
If you are struggling with Sciatica, or any of the symptoms described above, please contact Body Dynamics to find out more information on how Bowen Therapy can assist you.
For more information regarding Bowen Therapy, the science behind Bowen Therapy and what to expect from a Bowen Therapy session, please see our What is Bowen Therapy section.