Sciatica, a common condition affecting many, can be a real pain – quite literally. If you’ve ever experienced shooting pain down your leg, you might be dealing with sciatica. In this blog post, we’ll explore its causes, who it affects, and when it’s crucial to seek immediate medical attention. Additionally, we’ll delve into treatment principles, emphasizing the importance of timely intervention for a quicker return to your everyday activities.

Why Sciatica Happens

The definition of sciatica is not alway agreed upon in the medical community, so for the intents and purposes of this blog post we will consider it as any leg pain that originates from the low back. The two main causes are referred pain from irritated structures in the back as well as radicular pain from nerve root irritation (i.e. swelling) and/or compression.

  1. Referred Pain: Sciatica can be linked to irritated discs and facet joints in the low back. With these structures, when irritated, the pain can spread down the leg. The leg pain can be constant or intermittent, with the most intense pain actually being felt in the back, buttock, hip or groin. In these cases, movement and exercises that take the pressure off of the irritated structures are initially beneficial. With proper treatment and an early start with treatment, the recovery time is usually within days to weeks.
  2. Radicular Pain: Swelling around nerve roots or direct pressure on the nerve root in your low back can cause radicular sciatica. Here, the pain is most intense in the leg and the leg pain is constant. Adopting postures that take the pressure off of the back is often more beneficial initially than movement based therapy. With treatment, recovery is typically within weeks to months.

Who Does Sciatica Affect

Sciatica’s peak incidence is between those 45-64 years of age. Both forms of sciatica can result from injuries or the prolonged/repetitive postures that we assume during the day. Identifying movements or postures that reduce strain on irritated or compressed structures is crucial for the initial treatment.

When Sciatica is an Emergency

While most cases of sciatica can be managed with conservative measures, certain symptoms warrant immediate attention. If you experience a loss of bowel or bladder control, rush to the hospital. This could be indicative of cauda equina syndrome, a medical emergency requiring urgent intervention.

When Sciatica Pain Won’t Go Away

Timely intervention is key for a positive prognosis. Delaying treatment can prolong your recovery. For persistent sciatica, physiotherapy and exercises tailored to your condition are essential. In extreme cases, surgery may be considered, but it’s typically a last resort.


Sciatica, though painful, is often manageable with the right approach. Whether it’s referred pain from irritated back structures or radicular pain from nerve compression, seeking timely treatment and guidance from healthcare professionals, especially physiotherapists, can significantly improve your chances of a swift recovery.

It is important to have the pain assessed to determine if there is anything you should temporarily avoid, if there are strategies to improve your posture, if manual therapy is indicated, and what exercises would help.

If you have sciatica that is affecting your quality of life give North 49 a call at 306-343-7776. Or, book an Initial Assessment with one of our physiotherapists through our online booking platform.

Remember, your journey to relief and getting back to the activities you enjoy begins with understanding why sciatica happens and knowing that it’s crucial to get help.