What is sciatica? Why is there so much confusion about sciatica? Back pain, leg pain doesn’t equal sciatica?

People are using the term ‘Sciatica’ wrong!

Sciatica is often a misused term for a diagnosis when sciatica should be used to describe a set of symptoms which can be caused by many factors.

What symptoms to people have when they have sciatica?

These symptoms which can included pain and numbness in the buttocks or down the back of the leg, are generally due to pressure or irritation of the sciatic nerve.

Other symptoms you may experience are aching in the buttock or back of the thigh, decreased strength in leg and foot and pain in the foot.

The pain could feel like an ache, pins and needles or a sharp shooting pain that will usually only affect one side.

Sciatica can be due to irritation of the sciatic nerve – What is the Sciatic nerve? Learn about the sciatic nerve

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body at about 2cm wide and is the main nerve in your lower limb.  The sciatic nerve controls the function and sensation of your thigh and leg.  
Multiple spinal nerves from the lower back come together to form the sciatic nerve, it passes from the pelvis into the gluteal (bottom) region, runs under the piriformis muscle and then travels down the back of your thigh underneath your hamstring muscles.

Throughout the nerves pathway, smaller nerves branch off to reach muscles and skin of the lower limb and communicates messages to and from the brain.

When the sciatic nerve reaches the back of your knee, an area known as the popliteal fossa, the nerve splits into 2 and travels further down your leg to innervate the skin and muscles all the way down your leg and into your foot.

There are many points along the pathway of the sciatic nerve that can become irritated

Due to the pathway of the sciatic nerve there can be many causes of irritation to the nerve from the low back, through the muscles and structures in the gluteal or bottom region or the back of the leg.

The nerves that form the sciatic nerve come from the spinal cord – as they exit through your spine they can be impacted by disc injuries where the disc is compressing the nerve.
The narrowing of these exits can be impacted and may become narrower from things such as  arthritis and boney changes.
As the nerve passes through the pelvis and the buttocks muscle tightness or injuries or even sitting on your bottom for too long can irritate the nerve and result in symptoms.

Will sciatica ever get better?

Most sciatica cases resolve within 6 weeks – 3 months however if the sciatica is due to a permanent change in anatomy, longer healing times may occur and the likelihood of re-injury is greater.

Who can I go to for help?

Treatment options for sciatica include seeing a GP; who may prescribe medications to help with pain relief or see an osteopath to help fix the cause of the pain.

An osteopath will take a detailed history and complete a thorough assessment aiming to find the most likely cause of your sciatica.  Treatment for sciatica can consist of techniques including soft tissue for tight or sore muscles, mobilisation to encourage movement of your back and pelvis plus exercise and or rehab advice aiming to prevent the reoccurrence of the injury.

When do I need urgent medical care if I have sciatica?

It is important that if you have changes in your bladder or bowel control, or you have limb weakness you must seek medical advice quickly.


If you have questions or think you may have sciatica and want some advice get in contact with us –website (https://www.osteo4families.com.au/) or give us call (0416 161 411).  You can also make an appointment online (https://osteo4families.cliniko.com/bookings#location) to get your questions answered face to face.






Carly BroadbentGeneral Osteo