Sciatica is defined as pain in the distribution of the sciatic nerve or its branches and is caused by direct pressure on or irritation of the nerve. This pain is commonly felt in the buttock, the back of the thigh and calf and into the foot. Patients often report other associated symptoms such as weakness or altered sensation also in these areas. It is a common symptom, the most common cause of which is entrapment of a root of the nerve by a prolapsed intervertebral disc.
Physiotherapy is very effective in the treatment of the symptoms of sciatica. By using a wide range of spinal and soft tissue mobilisation techniques, physiotherapy can help to reduce compression or irritation of the nerve or its roots. When the acute symptoms have settled, the prevention of further episodes becomes the main focus of treatment. This phase of rehabilitation may include postural advice, strengthening of the core musculature, advice regarding work station ergonomics, instruction in good manual handling techniques and general back care advice.