Image of person bent over with sciatica pain | featured image for Sciatica.

Pain that refers down the gluteals, back of the leg and even as far down as the foot due to irritation of the SCIATIC nerve.

Main Pointers

Sciatica refers to pain that originates from an irritated SCIATIC nerve. This nerve exits at the LOWER BACK (Lumbar and Sacral Spine) and runs down the buttocks, the back of the leg and all the way down to the foot. The sciatic nerve is the LARGEST and LONGEST nerve in the body! Irritation of the Sciatic nerve caused by compression or chemical irritation can cause symptoms of shooting pain, tingling, numbness and weakness in the legs.

The most common symptoms of Sciatica include:

  • Unilateral (one-sided) that radiates down the buttocks, thigh or leg.
  • Description of pain usually entails burning or tingling or shooting (compared to a dull ache)
  • Sitting may aggravate the pain
  • Sensori-motor deficits including weakness, numbness, difficulty coordinating movement of the leg and feet.

The pain can be severe enough that it affects your ability to stand or walk.

What causes Sciatica?

As mentioned, the symptoms of Sciatica occur when the nerve becomes irritated through either compression or chemical irritation. The nerve roots that form the sciatic nerve exit from L4 to S3 (refer to picture below).

Image showing the most common causes of sciatica

Compression of the nerve may occur most commonly from disc herniation. Other causes may be due to disc degeneration and loss of disc height, spondylolisthesis (a spinal disorder in which a bone (vertebra) slips forward onto the bone below it), or spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal canal).

To identify what the likely cause for your Sciatica symptoms are, your physiotherapist at Refine Physiotherapy and Pilates will conduct a thorough examination of your lower back, your neural structures and your musculature in order to treat your Sciatica in the appropriate fashion.

What Physiotherapy Treatment options are there for Sciatica?

Your physiotherapist will determine the appropriate treatment required specific to your case, depending on the findings in the examination, as not all Sciatica presentations are alike. Treatment of Sciatica will usually involve decompression of the nerve and/or nerve roots through specific neural mobilising techniques and manual therapy. Rehabilitation will involve strengthening supporting structures, and stretching any tight structures.

What can I do myself to help with my Sciatica pain?

  • AVOID smoking. Studies and research have determined a correlation with smoking and an increased risk for developing Sciatica.1
  • AVOID sitting for long periods.
  • AVOID sitting with a slumped posture, or bend down to pick things up using a stoop lift.
  • CONTACT your physiotherapist/doctor if your symptoms are getting worse or persisting.


  1. The Effect of Smoking on the Risk of Sciatica: A Meta-analysis.