A pain in the leg: physiotherapy for sciatica

man with sciatic pain

man with sciatic pain

When sciatica strikes, it can be remarkably painful, causing stabbing, burning or shooting pain down your legs.

Sciatica is caused by rubbing or pressure on the sciatic nerve, primarily causing leg pain. However, other conditions can cause similar symptoms such as pain that travels down the leg from your back.

So, it's important to visit a physiotherapist to identify the actual cause of your sciatica-type pain. In some cases, doing exercises designed to relieve sciatica pain when it's caused by something else can actually make the problem worse.

What is sciatica?

The sciatic nerve runs down the back of the leg from your hips to your feet. It is a substantial nerve and when irritated, it can cause:

  • numbness
  • tingling
  • pins and needles
  • loss of feeling
  • weakness

These symptoms may be felt in your bottom, the back of your legs, your feet and your toes.

Physiotherapy can help alleviate sciatica by reducing the nerve pressure and easing tension in the muscles of the lower spine, bottom and affected leg. Call us for an appointment if you have sciatica or other leg pain.

What causes sciatica?

Sciatica is usually caused by the sciatic nerve becoming compressed due to inflammation, muscle tension, disc herniation (slipped disc) or injury to joints in your spine.

Sciatica can also be caused by:

  • spinal stenosis, where your spine narrows at the point where nerves pass through
  • spondylolisthesis, when one of the bones in the spine moves out of position
  • a back injury

If you combine professional treatment with specific daily exercises, your pain should ease within two weeks and pass after a month or so. Massage therapy can also aid recovery and provide relief from sciatic pain.

Other causes of leg pain

Make sure you only do the exercises your physio suggests to avoid doing more harm than good – Google is not your friend when it comes to leg pain! This is because there are several possible causes of leg pain similar to sciatica. These include:

Facet joint pain

The point at which two vertebrae meet in your lower back are know as the lumber facet joints. If these joints are injured, the joints surface get pushed together, often through forced compression or overloading. This can cause pain in your bottom, hips and legs.

Sacroiliac Joints (SIJ)

These joints form part of your pelvis. If these two joints become irritated, this can cause pain in your lower back. The pain can travel down your leg and into your foot.


If the muscles in your lower back and hips are irritated at specific 'trigger points', they can refer pain to your bottom, down your legs and into your foot. This pain can be surprisingly intense.

Intervertebral discs

Your intervertebral discs sit between the vertebrae in your spine. These discs can tear, bulge or rupture, again causing pain in one or both of your legs.

Think you have sciatica?

Call us for an appointment. The sooner we can examine you, the sooner we can identify the cause of your pain, and start a course of treatment for sciatica. We can also take referrals from your physician.