Skeleton having pain on his back against a blue backgroundLow back ache. Pain or dull ache in the buttock. Stinging, aching, tingling or throbbing down the back of the leg and possibly into the foot….  You can feel the symptoms all right but what is the problem?

Sciatica and Piriformis Syndrome may present with all or any of the above, which may be on one side or both.  They both affect the sciatic nerve by irritating or compressing it somewhere along its path, but the origin of the problem is different for each condition.

What is sciatica?

Sciatica includes the above symptoms, often with the pain more intense in the leg than the back, particularly the front of the lower leg.  It may present on one side, possibly as a result of muscle spasm irritating the nerve or a disc herniation compressing the nerve root, or it may present on both sides, which is more likely to be due to a central stenosis (narrowing) of the spinal canal.

Additional symptoms of sciatica include sharp pain rather than a dull ache, numbness and weakness in the affected area which is determined by the location of the irritation or compression.   It may be present all the time or worsen with certain activity.

What is piriformis syndrome?

Piriformis syndrome develops when the piriformis muscle becomes tight and shortened and irritates the sciatic nerve that runs behind it.  The piriformis muscle is a deep muscle running horizontally from the sacrum at the base of the spine to the inner edge of the thigh bone.

The sciatic nerve runs vertically behind it and may in some cases run through the fibres of the piriformis muscle.  As you can imagine, if this muscle becomes tight it will cause a compression on the sciatic nerve which results in any or all of the above symptoms.  In Piriformis Syndrome the symptoms include increased pain after sitting and when walking up stairs or an incline.

So how can we help you?

Treatment for both can include physical therapy such as deep tissue massage and spinal manipulation.  These work to release soft tissue tension and where necessary allow the realignment of bones.  Once the muscles have been released and the body has realigned the symtoms usually reduce or disappear quite quickly.  Piriformis Syndrome can also be helped with a stretching programme to release the affected muscles and reduce pain.  See the ‘Stretches for Piriformis Syndrome’ page for more information.

In most cases, the combination of techniques used by Natalie at Kings Hill Back Pain Clinic can be effective in reducing or eliminating pain from sciatica and piriformis syndrome.  However, if things do not improve after the recommended course of treatment (usually 1-3 sessions) then it may be necessary to be referred to your GP for further investigation.

A few things to be aware of:

There are a few more symptoms that, if occurring alongside low back or buttock pain, should be assessed by a medical professional as soon as possible as they may indicate potentially serious conditions.  These include dysfunction of the bowel or bladder (inability to control) and loss of sensation in the legs.  If weakness or numbness persist then medical attention should also be sought.  If in any doubt consult your GP.

I want to get this sorted – what do I do now?

To book a consultation with Natalie please use the button to the right or call on the numbers listed.  Most back pain is treatable so let us help you get out of pain and on with your life.

© Natalie Percival 2014