Sciatica: What is it? What causes it? How do I fix it? - Functional Advantage
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Sciatica: What is it? What causes it? How do I fix it?


Shooting pain down the back of the leg caused by sciatica is one of the most common things we see here at Functional Advantage Physical Therapy. 

Do you get a shooting pain down the back of your leg?

This pain could be sciatica.

Keep reading to learn more about what sciatica is, what could be causing sciatica pain, and tips on how to ease sciatica pain. 

What Is Sciatica?

Sciatica happens when something presses or rubs on the sciatic nerve.  

Sciatica is a type of pain caused by an irritated nerve and the pain is often felt from your bottom right down to your feet (and sometimes even your toes!).  

What Causes Sciatica? 

Sciatica is most commonly caused by a slipped disc, which puts pressure on the sciatic nerve, and then causes the pain you’re feeling.  

However, certain behaviors or factors can raise your risk of developing sciatica. The most common factors for developing sciatica include: 

  • When your body ages, it becomes more likely that parts will wear out or break down. 
  • Certain careers place a lot of strain on your back, especially those that involve lifting heavy objects, sitting for extended periods, or twisting movements. 
  • Having bad posture. 

What Is A Slipped Disk? 

A disc is a small fluid-filled sac that sits between the bones in your back, you have lots of these. Their purpose is to protect the bones in your back as you move.  

As you bend forwards, whether this is while picking something up or having generally bad posture, the discs are pinched at the front and the fluid inside the discs goes to the back. 

Now, imagine that you’re in a job where you’re always bending forwards, leaning forwards and/or picking up objects.  

Eventually, this repetitive squeezing of the disc will cause the wall of the disc to wear down and the fluid will come out. When this happens, you now have a very painful shooting sciatic sensation as the disc presses on the nerve that travels all the way down the back of your leg.   

How Can I Ease Pain Caused By Sciatica? 

The problem is that if you completely rest when you’re in pain, not only does the disc stay slipped but the muscles that control your lower back will become weak, and will provide less support to the already problematic and painful area.  

Limiting the amount of time that you spend sitting can help too. Now, you may be thinking: ‘sitting doesn’t make it worse’, but we find that many patients are sitting in a modified or slouched way to avoid their pain.  

This makes your pain last longer and often leaves you with an uncomfortable looking posture long after the back trouble has gone.  

Here’s Our Tips To Help You Ease Your Sciatica Pain…

Don’t Stop Walking 

Continue gentle exercise as soon as you can – anything that gets you up and moving can help. 

Gentle walking can work wonders for those suffering from sciatica because regular walking spurs the release of pain-fighting endorphins and reduces inflammation.  

Walking is one of the most overlooked forms of exercise, it’s simple, free, and one of the best ways to get more active, become healthier, and lose weight without too much effort. 

Watch Your Posture

Make sure you have a good posture when sitting and standing.   

Bad posture can compress your discs and irritate the sciatic nerve, your speed of walking, length of the stride and initial contact on the floor could be the reason why you’re in so much pain with your back.  

Take a slower pace through taking slower steps and make sure you gently roll onto your toes and push off – this will shorten your stride.  

When you walk with good posture, you take the stress away from your spine and engage the core abdominal and back muscles as they work in sync to get you moving.  

The reality is that we were NOT designed to sit down for 9+ hours a day. Our bodies are not shaped to do so and we don’t have the natural ability to cope with spending all of our time sitting down. Sitting has become so frequent and extensive that I doubt you’ve ever questioned how much of it you actually do.  

Are you suffering from a bad posture? Or maybe you think  you’re sitting properly… CLICK HERE to read about how you should be sitting. 

Sitting in a slouched position is one of the major causes for back pain as the pressure from sitting damages the lower back, which then leads to sciatica and stiffness in the neck joints. Sitting up properly with your shoulders back and your back straight can help to improve your posture, as well as limiting your time seated.  

Alternate Heat And Ice  

By using both heat and ice therapy, this can provide relief for sciatica. Ice helps with inflammation and heat encourages blood flow, but of which are essential to easing painful muscle spasms.  

Not sure when to exactly use heat vs. ice? CLICK HERE to learn more about when you should use heat or ice and the benefits of both. 

Stretch! 

Every day that you wake up and you’re not doing something small to help yourself to stay active, you’ll be getting more and more stiff. You’ll be losing flexibility of vital muscles and joints, and as this happens, you’re more and more likely to suffer from things like sciatica and other life-changing pains.  

If you have noticed pain shooting down your leg and are looking for more than just tips, have one of our physical therapists take a look at it (FOR FREE!) to determine exactly what is causing your pain.

Give us a call at 989-573-8588 or click here fill out a short form and we will contact you to set it up!   


Neil Sauer

Neil Sauer

Physical Therapist, Certified Health Coach and company owner Neil Sauer graduated from Saginaw Valley State University in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science. During that time he played four years of collegiate soccer. Neil earned a Doctor of Physical Therapy from Central Michigan University in 2006. He has taken continuing education courses for Stanley Paris manual therapy techniques and a Gary Gray Functional Training course. He has also taken selective functional movement assessment courses with the North American Sports Medical Institute (NASMI). Neil’s treatment philosophy goes beyond reducing pain and restoring motion/mobility. He has a passion for health and wellness and for improving the quality of life of his clients, and works holistically with them to ensure their injuries do not reoccur and that his clients enjoy optimal functionality. He strives to help his patients live more active, mobile and healthy lives knowing that they don’t have to rely on pain medications, injections or surgery. In his personal life, he is married and has two sons. During spare time, he enjoys spending time with his family, fishing, spending time outdoors and leading an active and healthy life. Neil also likes to read as much as possible when he finds/makes time. He primarily reads books on leadership, business and special forces. An avid exercise enthusiast, he continually works to improve his own health and wellness.
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