FAQ047: What is sciatica?

Low back pain (and sciatica) is one of the leading causes of pain and disability in North America

For anyone who has struggled with sciatica-like low back pain. They know that it can be crippling. Sometimes however there is a little bit of confusion about what represents a true sciatica… hence the FAQ!

What is a true sciatica?

A true sciatica is a radiating type of pain that travels along the back side of the body. It will go into the glute, hamstring and then travel further into the calf (and sometimes foot). Some people with low back pain get radiating symptoms but it doesn’t come into the calf. From a categorizing perspective, this doesn’t represent a true sciatica.

Sciatica is a symptom

Many people talk about having sciatica as a diagnosis. Interestingly (well at least I think this is interest), sciatica is actually a symptom. The reason why this is important is because it means there is another cause. Sciatica is the consequence, low back pain of a different variety is often the cause. This often means, when you go to physiotherapy for sciatica, we need to try to find the root of the problem so that we can get you pain free!

What can causes it?

Sciatica can be caused by a couple of different things. A disc herniation is one cause (and if you haven’t checked out our FAQ on disc herniations you should do that by clicking here). Another cause is stenosis. As we’ve talked about in this video, stenosis is a narrowing of some of the pathways the nerves go through. If they are narrow on the nerve root for sciatica, it can cause the pain.

Physiotherapists are one of the first lines of defence against low back pain and sciatica. At STAVE OFF, we have published a lot of articles on low back pain. When you have had back pain for a long period of time it can be disheartening… check out this article about the depressing reality of low back pain. 

Christina Prevett

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