Understanding and Treating Sciatica

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica occurs when the sciatica nerve – which is a long, large nerve that runs from the back down into the lower leg -- is pinched or in some other way prevented from functioning properly (we'll explore some common causes for this in a moment).

The result of this sciatica nerve dysfunction is severe pain in the legs and/or feet that can either occur gradually, or quite suddenly. Other symptoms of sciatica include weakness, numbness, tingling, lack of flexibility, and the inability to stand or sit without feeling excruciating pain.

Treating Sciatica

What Causes Sciatica?

There are many possible causes of sciatica. The most common include:

  • a herniated or slipped disk that puts pressure on a nerve root
  • tightening or spasming of the piriformis muscle located in the buttocks (this is also known as "Piriformis Syndrome")
  • narrowing of the spinal canal that puts pressure on nerves (this is also known as "Spinal Stenosis")
  • the slippage of one vertebra that narrows the space through which the nerve exits (this is also known as "Spondylolisthesis")
  • an injury to the spine – possibly caused by an accident, arthritis, overwork, etc. – that causes the cartridge in the joints to degenerate (this is also known as "Severe Facet Syndrome")
  • a displaced disk that causes a bulge, which in turn puts pressure on a nerve root (this is also called a "disc bulge")

Treating Sciatica

While sciatica is quite painful, and the causes described above can be severe, the good news is that most people will experience dramatic pain relief through treatment methods, like surgery, spinal injections or medication. Here are some common treatments that may end up being part of your customized Rehab Program (more on this in the next section):

  • Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)
    LLLT is a rapid, painless and proven treatment method with no known side effects. LLLT treatments use infrared (or near-infrared) light to stimulate the body's healing systems, while increasing blood supply to the injured area. At thesame time, the body's natural autoimmune system is triggered, which also speeds up the healing and recovery.
  • Acupuncture
    Acupuncture – which is a type of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) – has also helped countless people around the world (and for centuries) reduce and eliminate both sciatica-related pain, and the underlying contributing factors that cause it in the first place.
    Generally, acupuncturists view sciatica as the result of blocked Qi (or "life energy") in three main areas: the kidney, the spleen, and the liver. By removing these blocks, the energy is allowed to flow and the body returns to its optimal, pain-free state.
    At the same time, acupuncture for sciatica is often complimented by Chinese massage (called "rolling"), which helps the body's muscles relax, releases tension in the fascia and connective tissue, and improves circulation.
  • Dynamic Traction Therapy
    In Dynamic Traction therapy, gentle and relaxing traction is applied to the injured low back area. At the same time, the ligaments and discs in the spine are slightly stretched, in order to "pump" nutrients and blood into the area. This gentle stretching helps relieve pressure on discs and joints, which dramatically reduces pain.

Rehab Programs for Sciatica

When you work with an experienced and certified Chronic and Acute Pain Specialist, you'll be given a personalized Rehab Program designed to help you alleviate pain, while at the same time, strengthen and heal your injured muscles. Your Rehab Plan should include these 4 core components:

  1. A cardiovascular component to help build towards improved fitness.
  2. A general stretching component to regain flexibility and restore balance to muscles in the body, and especially the injured area.
  3. A muscle balancing component, to ensure that muscles are firing effectively and in sequence.
  4. A strength component, that must be followed regularly 3-4 times/week for 6-8 weeks, and then 2-3 times/week thereafter.

Getting the Answers and Help You Need

At the Advanced Therapeutic Centre, we've helped many people with Sciatica put an end to their pain without surgery or medication -- and often much faster than they ever dreamed possible!

So whether you've suffered for weeks, months, years or possibly even decades, rest assured that our experienced and caring Chronic and Acute Pain Specialists are here to answer your questions, provide you with insights and advice, and help you enjoy the happy, healthy pain-free life you deserve!

To learn more or book your 30 minute consultation, call us at (416) 361-9900 during our Centre hours (Monday, Wednesday & Friday from 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM).

Please see case study below.


A few years ago, one of my patients referred X me, who was suffering with intense low back pain. He also had difficulty sitting due to a herniated disc, which further caused radiating pain down his leg and to his heel.

X had tried other treatment programs to no avail, and was scheduled for surgery in eight weeks. He asked me if I could provide him with some degree of pain relief until then.

When X first arrived in my office, he couldn't even sit or stand still, and the non-stop movement forced me to ask if I could really help him. After all, the last thing I wanted to do was to make a promise that I couldn't keep.

To help me determine whether I could help X - and ensure that my treatment program wouldn't cause any further harm - I conducted an examination that lasted about five minutes. Fortunately, X was able to quietly lie on the treatment table, and so I was able to apply the laser and Dynamic gentle traction to his low back area.

It took X about five minutes to get off the examination table. However, he immediately noticed that the "edge" of his pain had decreased. Based on that feedback, I placed a special "pelvic belt" on him, and instructed him to ICE the area regularly at home.

On X's next visit, it was clear that things had improved! He was able to stand quietly, and said that the pain in his back and down his leg was more bearable. Encouraged by this progress I explained my treatment program to X, and said that I'd strive to relieve as much pain as possible until his surgery. I also mentioned that as the pain subsided, I would provide him with specific exercises for strengthening the muscles in his low back – which would further help him recover after surgery. After six treatments, much to his delight, X was experiencing 70-75% pain reduction. I also conducted further tests of his back muscles, and introduced specific exercises to begin strengthening the weakest ones. What's more, X started asking whether he actually needed surgery at all. I suggested that he discuss it with his Orthopedic Surgeon.

By his tenth visit, X was experiencing 90% pain reduction in his low back, and 100% pain reduction (i.e. no pain at all) in his leg. He was also capable of sitting for longer periods, and by now was easily getting on and off the treatment table.

X also visited his Orthopedic Surgeon, who was pleased with his progress and told him that he no longer needed surgery at this time! He was advised to continue his treatment with me, and follow-up in a month to check on progress.

Now, having practiced for so many years, I'm usually prepared for what my patients ask me. However, I wasn't prepared for X's next question.

Since X was nearly pain free, and because he was feeling stronger (thanks to his prescribed exercises), he wanted to know if he could "play golf with the guys."

Initially, I advised against it, given that the twisting and turning movements could damage his muscles and re-injure his herniated disc. However, with every visit X kept asking, and so finally I relented and said it would be OK -- provided that he wore his "pelvic belt" and hit balls for an hour at the most. Plus, he had to promise that he's stop immediately if he felt any pain.

X took my advice, and gradually began playing golf. Steadily, I increased the intensity of his exercises, which in turn strengthened his back muscles. And on X's next visit to his Orthopedic Surgeon, he was pain free and discharged!

Though not all stories involving herniated discs end this well, this was truly a happy ending for X, and I give him all of the credit in the world for following my advice and remaining committed to his customized Rehab Program.

What this case study highlights is that patients should explore good alternate care prior to surgery. Even if their surgery can't be avoided (as was X's case), key muscles can be strengthened, which can make surgery more successful, and definitely help with post-surgical rehabilitation.

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