Sciatica has quickly become a broad term that people use to describe any pain at the back of the thigh and is commonly overused.
Even though pain at the back of thigh can be due to the sciatic nerve, the reality is that pain in this area is often due to a number of other causes such as pain directly from your back, muscle strain of the glutes or hamstrings and even trigger points or muscle tension.
It is therefore important to have your pain thoroughly assessed, to get the correct diagnosis.
Sciatica is symptom caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve.
This irritation can be due to stiffness or inflammation at any point along the nerve’s line.
Commonly, the irritation is at the roots of the nerve, as they pass out of the lower back.
Symptoms usually consist of:
- Pain along the specific line of the sciatic nerve
- Dull, pulling, heaving sensation along that line
- Occasionally paraesthesia or a ‘numb’ sensation
Sciatic nerve pain can be diagnosed with specific tests performed by your physiotherapist, that assess the nerve’s sensitivity to lengthening and stretching movements.
This should be performed in conjunction with a thorough assessment of your lower back and thigh, to formulate a diagnosis as to why you are getting this pain.
Treatment involves treating the area around the nerve to reduce the irritation and reducing the nerve’s sensitivity to stretching. This can involve:
- Specific mobilisations
- Dry needling
- Specific stretches and exercises
- Modifying biomechanics and lifestyle factors