Sciatica – What it is and How to Handle it

sciatBack pain is one of the great curses of humanity, possibly because we descended from creatures that were designed to walk on four legs and not two. However, not all back pains were created equally and when sciatica strikes, you’ll likely know at once that this is something new.

Symptoms and Causes

The most obvious sign of sciatica is that pain will strike your lower back and then sprint down your leg, possibly not stopping until it’s well into your foot.

The problem occurs when a physical object, such as a bone spur or, more commonly, a herniated disk, presses against the sciatic nerve connecting the lower back to the legs and feet. This may be caused by an injury but it may also be down to the wear and tear of everyday life.


In its milder form, sciatica will often respond to self-medication. Over-the-counter pain killers and cold packs can be highly effective.

However, this isn’t always the case and if you‘re still suffering after more than seven days, or it’s getting worse, you should seek medical advice. It should also be born in mind that if the pain hits out of nowhere, is brought on by an injury or makes you lose control of your bowels or bladder, it should be viewed as an emergency which demands the immediate attention of a medical professional.

Methods of Diagnosis

Your doctor will want to know about your pain. He or she will want to know if your legs have have weakness or loss of sensation. Is your discomfort reduced when you adopt certain positions? Does the pain prevent you performing any activities? Have home remedies proven to be at all effective?

The doctor will also enquire about your lifestyle, asking if you do hard, physical work, are you spending long stretches of the day sitting, and how often do you exercise?

This will likely be followed by a physical examination. In order to find out just which nerve is at the core of the problem, you may be asked to perform a feat of physical exertion. The doctor may ask you to try and rise from a squatting position, to walk around on tip-toes or to lift a leg while you are on your back.

Should the pain be strong or persistent, it may be time to conduct imaging tests. These may involve X-Rays, CT scans or MRIs and can locate the physical cause of the problem. An electromyography (EMG) may also be effective in this quest.


The good news is that sciatica will likely clear up without any need for surgery. If non-prescription drugs have failed, your doctor can prescribe muscle relaxants or anti-inflammatories. Physical therapy may also be used, as may steroid injections. Thoughts of surgery will only arise in the event that nothing else has been effective.


As you can see from the above, a bad back can be a concern but it doesn’t have to be a crisis and that’s especially true when it’s in the hands of experts such as our Ealing chiropractors. So, if you have back pain, don’t hesitate to get in touch and find out just what services we can offer you.