Sciatica – What is It?

Sciatica is a common problem that we see in the clinic several times a week. While it seems to becoming increasingly common, perhaps due to a sedentary lifestyle or long hours spent sitting at a desk, this doesn’t detract from the fact that it can be incredibly painful and debilitating in some cases.

A combination of treatments and exercises are usually used to help alleviate the pain and discomfort though recovery times vary greatly from case to case.

Nerve Pain in Transit

Seb Johnson explains more about the condition and what you can do to help yourself :

What is sciatica?

Sciatica is caused by compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve stems from the lower back, and runs down through the glute muscles, hamstrings, gastrocnemius (calf) and into the feet.

Common symptoms include;

– Pain/ache radiating from lower back into glute/hamstring/calf (one or both sides)

– Pain/ache can radiate anteriorly i.e Quadricep (thigh), or groin

– Muscle weakness, or limited range of motion in the lower limb

There are numerous treatments that can help to alleviate the symptoms of sciatica. Nerve ‘glides’ are an effective method to help decrease pain caused by the impingement, along with increasing quality and quantity of movement.

Seated Sciatic nerve glide

In a seated position with back straight, simultaneously extend affected leg with toes pointed straight and tilt head backwards (to look upwards/lengthening). Then, bend the leg with the toes pointing upwards and drop chin down to chest (shortening). Hold for 5 seconds at each.  Repeat 15 times – 2x a day.

Jack Barker showing Nerve Glide Exercise Step 1

Jack Barker showing Nerve Glide Exercise Step 1


Jack showing the 2nd phase of the Seated Nerve Glide

Jack showing the 2nd phase of the Seated Nerve Glide

Supine sciatic nerve glide

Lying on back, bring knee to chest with leg bent – then extend the leg. Once in knee extension, point toes upwards and downwards. If there is any discomfort above a 5/10, or the glide increases the pain you’re currently experiencing too much, then bend the knee slightly (continue the toe points) until a comfortable position is reached. Hold for 5 seconds at each.

Repeat 15 times – 2x a day.

Jack showing the Supine Nerve Glide

Jack showing the Supine Nerve Glide

These exercises are designed to work alongside your physiotherapy treatments and it is one of those conditions that is unlikely to clear up by itself, however, every case is different!

If you start feeling pain like I’ve described here then don’t hesitate to call us and get yourself booked in for an assessment as the earlier we start treating Sciatica, the better.  See your pharmacist about anti-inflammatory medications (oral or applied to the skin) and pain killers as keeping pain levels under control, enabling you to keep moving, is essential.

Thank you to Jack Barker, Sports Therapist at Elite Therapy for demonstrating the exercises for this article.