Experiencing sharp pain that radiates down your leg can be more than just uncomfortable—it can disrupt your day-to-day activities and significantly affect your quality of life. This type of pain is commonly referred to as 'sciatica', a term that highlights discomfort along the sciatic nerve. However, labelling pain as sciatica doesn't provide a complete picture since it doesn't pinpoint the origin or cause of the discomfort. Not all leg pains are sciatic, and understanding the true source is crucial. In this blog, we'll explore what sciatica really involves, how to accurately diagnose it, and the effective ways osteopaths can help alleviate this painful condition.

Q) I think I have ‘sciatica’ – What Is It and Can You Help?

A) Nerve pain travelling down the leg is unfortunately quite common and it can be excruciating. It is often known as ‘sciatica’. However, this word literally only means pain on the sciatic nerve. It doesn’t give an actual diagnosis because it doesn’t explain why you have the pain/where it is coming from.  Also, not all pain in the leg is sciatic pain, for instance, pain down the front of the leg actually involves an entirely different nerve/not the sciatic nerve.  Therefore, our role as osteopaths is to first diagnose what nerve is involved and then to find out where the pain is coming from.  Is it the low back/lumbar spine causing the problem?  Is there a bulging disc pushing on the nerve (used to be called a ‘slipped disc’)?  Is the nerve being trapped in the muscles of the pelvis?  When we have discovered where the pain is originating from, we can then treat accordingly and give advice on stretches and exercises to help prevent the pain returning.

Understanding and treating nerve pain in the leg, particularly when referred to as sciatica, requires a thorough approach. As osteopaths, our goal is not just to alleviate the pain temporarily but to identify and treat its root cause. Whether it's a lumbar spine issue, a bulging disc, or nerve entrapment, a precise diagnosis is the first step towards effective treatment. By incorporating targeted stretches and exercises, we also aim to equip you with the tools to manage and prevent future episodes. Remember, enduring sciatica is not a mandatory part of life; with the right help, you can step back into your daily routine with confidence and comfort.