Pain in the back side and leg?

By Luke Attkins

As most of us know Sciatica is a common term that has been thrown around with people that suffer from back pain or have had some slight pain that runs down the leg. 
Yes! Sciatica is the term often given to nerve pain that travels down the leg.  It is also a term that over time has been used loosely and not everyone with back and leg pain has sciatica.  Pain down the leg can mean nerve pain but it can also indicate muscle referral pain. 
Symptoms of sciatica are weakness in the legs, numbness, pins and needles, electric shock sensations, aching and burning pain.  These types of symptoms do not all come on at once and may be infrequent and irritating sometimes but for others it can be quite constant and incapacitating.  These symptoms will normally follow a specific pattern and are commonly only felt on the back of the leg.  Sometimes patients only feel the pain to the knee, but sciatica does travel all the way down to your big toe.
This nerve pain typically worsens when performing lifting activities, bending forwards, getting up out of a chair, sneezing, coughing or even laughing at one of your friends jokes.  As this nerve does control sensation and function you can sometimes experience muscle weakness. 

Common Causes:

  • Herniated disc (otherwise known as a disc bulge)
  • Degenerative change in the spine
  • Inflammation around your joints or spine
  • Inflamed or painful muscles in the buttock
  • Arthritic changes in the low back
    • Stenotic change (boney growths into the space occupying the nerve)
    • Narrowing of the disc space between your vertebrae
  • Spinal injuries or tumors

How is it diagnosed:

Sciatica is diagnosed by conducting a thorough history and physical assessment.  Your practitioner during your physical will carry out several different physical tests to determine the origin of your pain.  This can include muscle strength tests, nerve tension tests and lumbar range testing. 

Do I need scans:

In majority of cases with sciatica your practitioners don’t require scans, but depending if symptoms are improving or worsening scans may be needed at a later date.


Treatment of sciatica consists of spinal manipulation, exercise, neural stretch or flossing and soft tissue work through the back and legs.  Majority of sciatica will resolve with conservative treatment but those that are quite severe may need surgical intervention or injection. 
In summary, sciatica is a very common and very treatable condition that you can be helped with by an allied health practitioner.  If you have experienced this pain and would like to know what the cause is and how you can get relief call us and book an appointment.  You can take your first steps to resolving your sciatica pain now.