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Back Pain and Sciatica

Back Pain and Sciatica

Low back pain and Sciatica


(Also known as Slipped disc, Prolapsed disc, Sciatic Pain, Pinched Sciatic Nerve, Acute Nerve Root Compression)

Official figures from the UK state that four out of every five adults will have a back pain problem at some point in their lives. And serious back problems can strike at any age even in children, but it is most common in adults from their mid-30s to mid-50s.In fact, back problems are easily the biggest cause of lost work days, not only in the UK, but also in all western countries.

As a Chartered Physiotherapist with 35 years of professional experience I have found a that there is an upward trend in the numbers of people experiencing back pain and sciatica over the years.   I believe this is due to four factors:

1. Increasing sedentary lifestyle
2. Increasing poor posture
3. Poor nutrition
4. Over prescribing of anti-inflammatory medications

Definition: Low back pain
Low back pain or lumbago refers to pain in the lumber area of the spine around the waist area.  This pain may be dull, aching, or acute and sharp depending on the structures and tissues involved in the damage.

Definition: sciatica.
Sciatica is the name given to pain in the leg, located in the back or side of the thigh and calf which is referred down the sciatic nerve from the back.  The pain is referred along the course of the sciatic nerve, which has its root in the lumber spine area.   Any damage in the lumber spine structures such as ligaments, muscles, discs, connective tissues, or joints can result in inflammation, creating pressure and irritation of the sciatic nerve root, resulting in referred pain into the leg.
Whilst sciatica is a common complaint, the term itself is often misunderstood. It is important to realize that sciatica is not a diagnosis, but rather a description of symptoms. There are a number of conditions which can cause compression or irritation to the sciatic nerve resulting in sciatic pain. This is important to understand as treatment for each of these conditions differs.


Understanding your back      

It is not surprising that so many people suffer back injuries when you consider that all that is supporting your entire upper body weight are 24 small vertebrae

Discs.   In between each of these vertebral bones, at the joints, is a shock absorbing disc that stops friction and jarring between each bone.

Bones support and give strength to our body.   They serve as levers to enable us to move. 
Joints are the articulations between pairs of levers, and allow movement to take place. These small joints of your back actually support the weight of your entire torso and upper body on the pelvis. 

The ligament structures hold the levers together at the joint, and, support them.

Muscles and tendons serve as pulley’s which, when contracted or shortened, move the bony levers at the joints.

Fascia is the fibrous tissue interfaces separating different groups of muscles.

Nerves are the electricity supply to the tissues, conducting information and instructions from your brain and spinal cord to the muscles ,(motor nerves) and bringing information back from the tissues to the brain.(sensory nerves)

Damage can occur to any of these structures in isolation, but it is more usual to have several tissues affected at the same time.

Mechanical Causes of Back Pain and Sciatica

Some of the more common conditions which may cause sciatic pain include:
• Lumbar Disc Bulge (prolapse)
• Soft tissue inflammation (ligaments, muscles, tendons, Fascia)
• Spinal Degeneration (arthritis and ware and tare.)
• Spinal Canal Stenosis (narrowing)
• Spondylolisthesis (instability between vertebrae)
• Piriformis Syndrome (spasm in buttock muscle)
• Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction

Other less common conditions which may also cause sciatic pain include:
• tumours
• bony growths 
• infections

Diagnosis of Back Pain and Sciatica
A thorough subjective and objective examination from a Chartered Physiotherapist is usually sufficient to diagnose sciatica and the underlying cause. Investigations such as an X-ray, MRI or CT scan may occasionally be required to confirm diagnosis.

Treatment for Back Pain and Sciatica
Treatment for this condition varies greatly depending on the cause of symptoms. Accurate diagnosis from a Chartered physiotherapist is therefore required to determine the most appropriate treatment.

Physiotherapy for Back Pain and Sciatica
Physiotherapy for back pain and sciatica can hasten the healing process, ensure an optimal outcome, and reduce the likelihood of future recurrence. Treatment may involve:
• mobilization  (to reduce spasm and pain from holding patterns)
• manipulation  (to realign joints)
• Soft tissue work (massage, frictions, etc)
• Acupuncture (to relieve spasm and pain, hasten healing)
• electrotherapy (e.g. laser, ultrasound)
• postural taping or bracing
• Education (on self-help, posture, ergonomics and preventative measures.)
• activity modification advice
• the use of a lumbar support for sitting
• exercises to improve flexibility, strength, posture and core stability
• Nerve root stretches

TCM Acupuncture has amazing pain relieving effects as well as promoting the healing process and reducing muscle spasm.

Nutritional Support for Back Pain and Sciatica.   

 In this practice we offer nutritional support in the way of advice about specific tailored supplements and dietary changes needed to help heal your back pain and sciatica

Natural Remedies for Back Pain Relief

If you need help with your Back pain or Sciatica, please contact me on +442866328200 or email

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