Pinched Nerves (Sciatica)

Sciatica is a common condition that can be caused by a pinched nerve in the lower back. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body and runs from the lower back down through the buttocks and into the legs. When the sciatic nerve is pinched or compressed, it can cause pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the lower back, buttocks, legs, or feet.

Causes of Pinched Nerves (Sciatica)

Pinched nerves, including sciatica, can be caused by a variety of factors. Some common causes include:

Herniated or bulging discs: Discs are the shock-absorbing cushions between the vertebrae in the spine. A herniated or bulging disc can put pressure on nearby nerves, causing pain, numbness, or weakness.

Spinal stenosis: This is a condition where the spinal canal narrows and puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. Spinal stenosis can cause pain, numbness, or weakness in the legs or arms.

Bone spurs: These are bony growths that can develop on the spine or other bones. Bone spurs can compress nearby nerves and cause pain, numbness, or weakness.

Piriformis syndrome: This is a condition where the piriformis muscle in the buttocks compresses the sciatic nerve, causing pain, numbness, or tingling in the buttocks and legs.

Trauma or injury: A sudden injury or trauma to the back or neck can cause a pinched nerve.

Repetitive motion: Repetitive motion, such as typing or playing sports, can cause a pinched nerve over time.

Obesity: Excess weight can put pressure on the nerves in the lower back, leading to a pinched nerve.

Treatment for a pinched nerve will depend on the cause and severity of the condition. In some cases, rest, physical therapy, or medications can help relieve symptoms. In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary.

Signs and Symptoms of Pinched Nerves (Sciatica)

The signs and symptoms of a pinched nerve depend on which nerve is affected and where the pinching is occurring. However, some common signs and symptoms of a pinched nerve include:

  • Pain: A pinched nerve can cause sharp or shooting pain that may radiate to other parts of the body. The pain may be worse when the affected area is moved or touched.
  • Numbness or tingling: A pinched nerve can cause numbness or tingling in the affected area. This can feel like a “pins and needles” sensation.
  • Weakness: A pinched nerve can cause weakness in the affected area. For example, a pinched nerve in the neck may cause weakness in the arms or hands.
  • Burning or prickling sensation: A pinched nerve can cause a burning or prickling sensation in the affected area.
  • Muscle spasms: A pinched nerve can cause muscle spasms in the affected area.
  • Loss of reflexes: A pinched nerve can cause a loss of reflexes in the affected area.
  • Limited mobility: A pinched nerve can cause limited mobility in the affected area.

If you are experiencing any of these signs and symptoms, it is important to see a healthcare professional for an evaluation and diagnosis. Treatment for a pinched nerve will depend on the cause and severity of the condition. In some cases, rest, physical therapy, or medications can help relieve symptoms. In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary.

Treatment for Pinched Nerves (Sciatica)

Physiotherapy can be an effective treatment for pinched nerves, particularly when used in combination with other treatments such as medication, rest, and lifestyle changes. The goals of physiotherapy for a pinched nerve are to reduce pain, inflammation, and muscle spasms, improve the range of motion, and strengthen the affected area to prevent further injury.

Here are some common physiotherapy treatments for a pinched nerve:

Stretching exercises: A physiotherapist can develop a stretching routine to help relieve tension in the affected area and reduce compression on the nerve.

Strengthening exercises: Strengthening exercises can help to improve the stability of the affected area, reducing the likelihood of further nerve compression.

Manual therapy: Manual therapy techniques such as massage, joint mobilization, and manipulation can help to improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and relieve pain.

Hot and cold therapy: Hot and cold therapy can be used to reduce pain and inflammation in the affected area. Hot therapy can help to relax muscles, while cold therapy can help to reduce swelling.

Ultrasound therapy: Ultrasound therapy uses sound waves to help reduce inflammation and promote healing in the affected area.

TENS therapy: Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy involves the use of a small device that delivers a low-voltage electrical current to the affected area, which can help to reduce pain and improve circulation.

It is important to work with a qualified physiotherapist who can develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your specific needs and goals. In addition to physiotherapy, it may be necessary to make lifestyle changes such as improving posture, losing weight, or avoiding activities that aggravate the pinched nerve.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about pinched nerves please call us at 03 9836 1126.



França, F. R., Burke, T. N., Caffaro, R. R., Ramos, L. A., & Marques, A. P. (2018). Effectiveness of physical therapy for patients with sciatica: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy

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