I want to be known as Teryn Buna, Defender of the Sciatic Nerve. I am here to set the record straight.
Today, I want to help educate people that sciatica is not a scary diagnosis. Despite the fact that the majority of people have heard of the sciatic nerve, most don’t actually know what it is.
Sciatica is a word to describe an irritation to the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is a bundle of nerve roots that originate as projections off the spinal cord in the low back. It is the combination of 5 segments that combine to form a very thick, rope-like structure that sits deep to your glutes (buttocks), and travels down the back of your leg. This nerve works to transmit signals to help us move, and to feel things along the back of the thigh/calf and into the foot.
99.9% of the time, it does its job without anyone even knowing it exists.
However, people who experience sciatica can tell you exactly what it does and/or where it goes. They describe an unpleasant sensation that runs down the path of the sciatic nerve, anywhere from the back of the knee down to the foot. ‘Unpleasant’ can be an ache, pins and needles, numbness or even sharp shooting or radiating pain.
Sciatica can happen for a variety of reasons when the nerve is affected by either chemical stress (i.e. inflammation) or mechanical stress (i.e. something touching it). Similar to an ankle sprain, depending on how much it’s stressed, it can take anywhere from days to weeks to months to improve. Just because your sciatic nerve comes from your back doesn’t mean that irritating this structure will lead you to needing a wheel chair. Nor do you have a guaranteed need for surgery.
Studies have shown that one of the best ways to treat sciatica is with physiotherapy and exercise. Most people improve their symptoms in 8 weeks, and return back to their previous activities within that time frame, though this can vary depending on the case.
Some might be thinking that I’m downplaying it because I have no idea what it actually feels like. However, I have experienced it and I know first-hand how absolutely awful it can be. Even still, I want to defend the poor sciatic nerve and hopefully encourage you to spread the word that it is an amazing, and very important, part of our bodies. It is not something to be feared.
I hope you can share this with someone whose been speaking negatively about the sciatic nerve or struggling with it, and encourage them that it can get better with time, physiotherapy and exercise!
About Teryn Buna
Teryn qualified as a Physiotherapist from UBC after developing a firm understanding of the body through a Bachelor of Science in Health & Exercise Physiology at the University of Calgary. Her early years in the world of private practice physiotherapy left her with many questions which pushed her to pursue further studies. In 2014, she completed a post-graduate Masters in Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy from the University of Queensland in Australia. After completing her studies, she incorporated research assistant and clinical education work along-side clinical work in Australia. You can find out more about her at www.treloarphysio.com or www.sitkaphysio.com as well as on Facebook @terynbunaphysio.