Sciatica is a form of lower back pain that can quickly and easily take your breath away.

While not all pain associated with sciatica is severe, it can be enough to impede your day-to-day living. 

Fortunately, most cases resolve themselves within a few weeks with non-operative treatments such as stretching, exercising, and physiotherapy.

To better understand sciatica, keep reading to learn more about its causes, symptoms, and treatments.

The Sciatic Nerve

Did you know that the sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve in the body?

It is formed by the connection of five nerve roots from the lower spine and passes through your buttocks and down to the back of your thigh to the sole of your foot.

The sciatic nerve also connects your spinal cord with the muscles and skin of the foot, leg, and thigh.

It’s no surprise that it really hurts when the sciatic nerve becomes compressed, irritated, or inflamed! 

When this happens, this is known as sciatica, and the most distinctive sign is pain that radiates from your lower back through your legs.

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is actually not a condition but a symptom of an underlying issue or injury that is negatively impacting your sciatic nerve.


There are a number of lower back problems that can cause sciatica, including:

  • Herniated Discs: A bulged disc in the lower back that irritates or compresses the sciatic nerve root.
  • Foraminal Stenosis: A degenerative change in the spine that narrows the opening in which the sciatic nerve travels, causing compression and irritation.
  • Segmental Instability: A vertebral segment that slips, is defective, or dislocates and puts pressure on the sciatic nerve.
  • Chemical Inflammation: Chemical irritants that leak out of degenerated or herniated discs and cause sciatic pain.
  • Physical Characteristics: Older individuals and overweight individuals can increase the risk of sciatica.
  • Body Movements: Certain movements and prolonged poor posture can lead to sciatica and nerve pain.
  • Vitamin B12 Deficiency: B12 is important for maintaining nerve health because it supports the fatty sheath that covers the nerves. A deficit can lead to issues with sciatica.

Some research suggests that the degeneration of intervertebral discs is connected to genetics, which may alter the structure and function of collagen proteins in the discs.


The first symptom of sciatica is pain which indicates that the nerve is irritated or inflamed. This pain is often burning, sharp, or searing felt in only one leg.

If you are suffering from sciatica, you may feel throbbing pain, electric shocks, a constant dull ache, or pain that comes and goes.

While it’s rare to feel sciatic pain in both legs, the discomfort may alternative between your left leg and right leg.

When it comes to the pain, you may also feel it in your lower back, the front of your leg, the top and outer side of your foot, or the space between your first and second toes.

Along with pain, it’s possible to also experience weakness in your muscles along your leg and foot. You may also feel numbness or tingling.

Sciatica Treatments

sciatica treatment performed on man by physiotherapist

Treatment for sciatica depends entirely on the severity of the symptoms and the cause of inflammation.

If you believe you are dealing with sciatica, it’s important to speak to your doctor. They can determine the best course of treatment for your condition, which often includes:

Remaining Active

It’s important to continue your daily activities as much as possible when you are experiencing sciatic discomfort or pain. Lying in bed or avoiding activity can make the pain worse.

Cold and Heat

Ice packs applied to the affected area for short intervals throughout the day can help ease the pain and reduce swelling during the early days of your symptoms.

Alternatively, you can use heat after 2 or 3 days to relax your muscles.

If the pain continues, try alternating between the ice and heat therapy.

Stretching and Exercise

To find sciatic nerve pain relief, try gently stretching your lower back. A trained physiotherapist can show you the best exercises and correct forms to alleviate your discomfort.

If you are able, begin a gentle exercise routine that includes aerobics, core stability, and strength training.

Not only does exercise help to release healing endorphins, but building strength can help better support your sciatic nerve.


Over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, can help with swelling, inflammation, and pain.

It’s possible that your doctor may prescribe muscle relaxers, oral steroids, or pain relievers to help with the discomfort as well.

Physiotherapy for Sciatic Relief

Physiotherapy is an excellent choice to achieve sciatic nerve pain relief because it also promotes healing of the underlying cause and prevents recurrences.

Physiotherapists are specially trained to deal with lower back pain by providing manual therapy, exercise programs, and rehabilitation.

If you are dealing with sciatic pain, don’t hesitate to visit our Edmonton clinic or contact us if you have any questions.