Sciatica: “Why Does My Back Problem Cause Such Severe Pain Down The Back Of My Leg?”

In response to a question from a client about his concern about Sciatica.

“If I’ve got back pain — Why am I getting a shooting pain down the back of my leg?”.

This is a very common symptom we see at PhysioFit.

In fact, at least 5 people walk, (or hobble in with sever pain it causes), into the clinic each week with this very same complaint.

I have suffered with this discomfort and know exactly how much it can get in the way of daily activities and hobbies.

The first response to this pain by most is to visit your doctor, pick up some medicine to ease the pain and possibly a few exercises.

For some, the response is to simply rest and hope for the pain to subside.

Resting, generally for the lower back is a big “no no”, and medicine, although it might reduce the pain at first, is unlikely to solve the underlying root cause of this discomfort.

Also, do you really want to take pain meds every single day to simply mask a problem? Let me tell you, this is not a problem that can be swept under the rug!

There can be a few reasons why someone experiences a shooting/sciatic pain down the back of their leg and it is my job to identify through a thorough assessment what the cause might be.

One of the most common causes I see for this debilitating pain is due to a “slipped disc”.

Most clients I see with this problem have heard of the term, “slipped disc”, yet very few understand exactly what it is and why physical therapy is vital in ensuring a quick recovery.

Now, to understand why…

What is a slipped disc?

Small fluid filled sacs (disc’s) sit between the bones in your back. I find it’s better to think of them as little jelly donuts, (little potentially painful jelly donuts!). There purpose is to protect the bones in your back as you move about.

As you bend forwards the discs are pinched at the front and the fluid inside the discs goes to the back. For example, imagine if you squeeze a jelly donut, the jelly inside will move away from where you are squeezing. Now imagine if you are in a job where you are always bending forwards/leaning forwards/picking up objects.

Eventually this repetitive squeezing of the disc will cause the wall of the disc to wear down and similar to if you squeeze a jelly donut too hard, the fluid will come out. However, instead of sticky jelly fingers, you have a very painful shooting sciatic sensation! As the disc presses on the nerve (sciatic), that travels all the way down the back of your leg.

The problem if you completely rest this is that not only does the disc stay slipped, the muscles that control your lower back become weak, therefore providing less support to the already problematic area.

Physical therapy is vital and can assist in the recovery of this painful problem.

Common treatment methods I use include mobilizing the joints to encourage the disc to move back forwards and off the nerves, deep tissue massage to loosen the muscles that become very tight to protect your lower back, as well as invaluable exercise and stretching advice.

All these treatment methods are specific to you, as no two back problems are ever the same and are aimed at getting you back to living the life you love!

Please – don’t suffer any longer than you have to.

P.S. If you’re suffering from sciatica pain, here’s more tips and advice:

Or call (650) 947-8500 for a no obligation complimentary telephone consultation.

kim gladfelter physiofit 1ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kim Gladfelter, MPT, OCS, FAAOMPT
Women's Health Physical Therapy Specialist at PhysioFit Physical Therapy & Wellness

Kim Gladfelter is a physical therapist, Pilates instructor, educator, author, and co-founder of PhysioFit Physical Therapy & Wellness. She is known as a keen, well-rounded expert of healing through movement and women’s health specialist in the Silicon Valley area.

Kim has helped men and women of all ages to stay active and feel their best. She also writes about managing pain in her health columns, blogs and the local Los Altos Town Crier newspaper as well as reaches out to the local community, support groups, schools, libraries, and sports centers to advise and educate on body awareness and therapeutic exercise.

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