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Demystifying Sciatica - A Short, Sweet, Summary

Written by Harry Ngoo, Physiotherapist

You might have heard the term “sciatica” being thrown around in recent times - whether it’s from a loved one or from a social media post, and the associated scary symptoms that may come with this puzzling phrase… But what does it really mean?


Sciatica is a term often heard but not always fully understood. As sinister as the word may sound as if straight out of a Sci-Fi movie, we'll delve into the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for sciatica, empowering you with the knowledge needed to effectively manage and alleviate this condition.


What is sciatica?


Sciatica is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide, often significantly impacting daily life and mobility. It's not just a generic back pain; it's a specific condition with its own set of symptoms and causes. Characterised by pain radiating from the lower back and radiating down the back of each leg, sciatica refers to the pain caused by the sciatic nerve being compromised.


What are the symptoms?


Symptoms typically affect one side of the body and varies in intensity.

Common symptoms of sciatica include:


- Pain that radiates from the lower back down the back of the hip, thigh and leg

- Sharp, shooting pain that may feel like an electric shock

- Burning or prickling sensation

- Numbness, tingling or pins and needles in the affected leg

- Weakness in the leg or foot with difficulty moving or bearing weight

- Difficulty moving or controlling the affected leg


What are the causes?


Sciatica can develop as a result of various underlying conditions. Some of these include:

- Disc bulge/herniation: The soft inner core of a spinal disc can protrude through the tough outer layer and compress onto nearby nerve roots.


- Spinal stenosis: Narrowing of the spinal canal, often due to age-related changes or degenerative conditions, can exert pressure on the sciatic nerve.


- Degenerative disc disease: Wear and tear of the spinal discs over time can result in disc degeneration, leading to irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve.


- Deep gluteal syndrome (piriformis syndrome): If the piriformis muscle (located in the buttocks) becomes tight or inflamed, it can compress the sciatic nerve.


What are the treatment options?


Despite the potentially debilitating symptoms of sciatica, fortunately, there are several effective treatment options available for managing sciatica and alleviating symptoms.


At In Stride Health Clinic, we offer a range of service across multiple disciplines which can efficiently manage sciatica and its symptoms. These include:


- Physiotherapy: Physiotherapists usually focus on exercise rehabilitation which plays a crucial role in managing the symptoms of sciatica, promote healing and enhance the recovery timeline. An effective client-tailored exercise program consists of specific strengthening and stretching exercises to improve flexibility, strengthen supportive muscles, and correct posture and movement patterns. Other techniques often employed in physiotherapy include hands-on treatments, hydrotherapy, pilates, taping, and education to enable effective self-management.


- Myotherapy: Hands-on techniques such as massage, lymphatic drainage, joint mobilisation, spinal manipulation, dry needling, cupping, muscle energy techniques can help reduce muscle tension, improve joint mobility, and alleviate pain associated with sciatica.


- Podiatry: From identifying leg length differences and foot posture/mechanics, to prescribing orthotics and footwear, podiatrists can help speed up the sciatica recovery process by addressing factors contributing to sciatica. Furthermore, podiatry offers foot care if you need a hand reaching your feet.


What’s next?


Sciatica can be a challenging condition to manage, but with the right treatment approach, relief is possible.


Here at In Stride Health Clinic, our experienced practitioners can accurately assess and diagnose your condition and develop a personalised treatment plan tailored to your needs. By housing a multidisciplinary team, we are always working together to deliver the best healthcare for you through a holistic lens.


We understand how debilitating and frustrating living with sciatica can be, and we strive to help you get back to doing the things you love as soon as possible, by regaining control of your mobility and your life.


Harry (or Hui Le) completed his Doctor of Physiotherapy at the University of Melbourne. He previously has obtained a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Human Structure and Function. Harry has done additional training in dry needling. 

With a keen passion for musculoskeletal and sports physiotherapy, Harry is a strong believer in a combination approach of hands-on manual therapy, education, evidence-based management, and a large focus on client-tailored exercise prescription. In addition to working at the clinic, Harry has been and continues to be involved with local footy teams.

In his downtime, Harry enjoys doing all things active including weight training, playing basketball and exploring the outdoors. Harry loves travelling and is fascinated by different cultures - he wishes to finally visit Europe in the next few years.  As a Malaysian-born Chinese, he also speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese.

Harry offers hands on physiotherapy, clinical Pilates, hydrotherapy and exercise based rehabilitation at In Stride.  He is available most weekdays and Saturday mornings.


Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions regarding sciatica, or the various disciplines and services we have to offer.


Contact us and book in an appointment with one of our qualified therapists today:




- Phone: 03 9372 8091


- Instagram: @instridehealthclinic



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