Back pain and Sciatica
Lower back pain is one of the most frequent reasons people come to see us.
Having lower back pain doesn’t mean you’ve got severe damage even though it can feel like it. Many cases of back pain happen because the spine has become progressively stiffer over time. Sitting all day at work, having no time to exercise or sleeping badly are just some of the reasons why this may happen. After this has occurred, something as trivial as bending down to pick up a pencil can cause you to ‘seize up’.
The good news is that this is usually easy to treat, with a significant reduction in pain after your first visit and a quick return to normality soon after. We aim to establish what caused the problem and treat all the contributing factors to it – not just the part that hurts.
X-rays can’t always tell you where the pain is. Our expert touch often can!
Did you know that around 50% of adults will have back or neck pain during the next year- that’s’ around 30 million people (ref backcare.org.uk).
Up to 85% of people have reported that they suffered from low back pain at some time in their life. The low back or lumbar spine is under constant stress and strain, especially if you’re an office worker or commuter who sits for long periods of time. The increased demands of sports training, manual work, pregnancy or those looking after their small children can also stress the low back further.
How is the lower back built?
The structure of the lumbar spine is made up of 5 lumbar vertebrae and in between each lies a disc comprising of an inner jelly held within a thicker layer of fibers, which keeps the whole thing in place. These discs act as shock absorbers throughout the spine, supported and aided by muscles and ligaments. The lumbar spine has a natural curve in its lower region called the lumbar lordosis. This is commonly an area for low back pain due to the angle and increased stress placed on this region.
What causes lower back pain?
Lower back pain can be classified as acute, lasting less than a month or chronic, lasting weeks, months or even years. The onset of low back pain can be acute due to lifting something heavy, or bending and feeling an immediate sharp pain in the low back. It can also be gradual, with no apparent reason for it starting.
Changes in activities or your routine can also aggravate the low back: a long car journey, painting the bathroom ceiling over a weekend, or coughing a lot.
There are many different causes of low back pain, from acute muscle spasm, disc problems or nerve pain – where the patient may experience a pain in the leg or foot, but the origin is in the low back.
Osteoarthritis or general ‘wear and tear’ commonly affects the hips, knees and lumbar spine region, causing pain and stiffness. This is one of the common causes of back pain.
When should we investigation it further?
It is also important to remember that some back pain is not due to a structural cause, and can come from your viscera, such as the kidneys, bladder or abdominal region. If this is the case, we will refer you to the relevant specialist and we have strong and established connections with local GPs. We will consider referral for further tests or investigations such as blood tests, X-rays and MRI scans if needed.
Sciatica gives you debilitating back and leg pain, but fortunately not all pain down the leg is actually sciatica. As it’s about the only cause of leg pain most people have heard about, it’s often what they most commonly self diagnose as the reason for their pain.
Sciatic pain comes from irritation of the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower part of our spine, through the buttock, down the back of the thigh and outside lower leg. This is where the pain is felt and it’s rather unique -more like a deep toothache or even ‘electric’ compared to simple muscular pain.
Pain down the side or front of the leg is not sciatic, and some pains may be due to referred pain from other structures such as joints in the spine. The location of the pain and the problem are not always the same and we can help work out where the treatment is needed so we can get you better sooner.
Do you think you might have sciatica?
Many people present thinking they have sciatica or have been told they have it. Sciatica is a symptom not a diagnosis. When it happens, it means the biggest nerve in the leg is irritated and inflamed. There are many causes. It could be from a tight muscle, a joint not moving quite right or, in the worse case, a bulging or prolapsed disc.
How do we treat sciatica?
As the nerve is super sensitive it can take a long time to recover. It needs lots of expert mobilisation and stretching, rather like a muscle, and we are well placed to provide you with the appropriate level of massage, articulation, traction and spinal release techniques. The exercises we recommend will improve your mobility and back strength further. Remember, a referral to a surgeon is the last resort and there is lots we can do to rehabilitate you. However, if the nerve damage is severe and the disc significantly prolapsed then surgery may be our recommendation.
Our best advice for you is…
Please do not worry as very few people have this. We understand it is an awful experience and that the pain is severe, but it will get better. Come to us for treatment sooner rather than later as this helps the most.
We understand that a healthy low back can be maintained with a combination of exercise, postural advice and being aware of individual limitations, as well as our well-established and successful manual therapy. This combination, we know, provides you with the best method to achieve your full recovery. We endeavor to leave you pain free and active.