The sciatic nerve is a continuation of nerve fibers from the low lumbar and sacral region. Irritation or entrapment of this nerve can lead to a condition generally termed sciatica. It is often characterized by radiating pain in the region of the low back, buttock and/or leg.

Causes

Conditions that cause the inflammation and dysfunction in the sciatic nerve include:

  • Lumbar disc injury
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Muscular dysfunction

Sciatica can usually be treated without surgery.

Common symptoms include:

  • Pain radiating into the buttock and leg
  • Pain may be aggravated by sitting
  • Pain also may increase in standing after sitting
  • Difficulty moving the leg, foot, or toes due to weakness or numbness

Physical Therapy Treatments

Physical therapy treatments include manual therapy and therapeutic exercise. Routine strengthening, stretching, and aerobic exercise can expedite recovery and prevent recurrence.

Strengthening exercises often target the trunk and hip muscles to improve stability. Stretching exercises often focus on improving mobility in the trunk, hips and legs.

Gentle aerobic exercise, such as walking, recumbent bike, or pool therapy, often is also helpful to improve mobility and stability.