Why Does My Sciatica Cause Pain Down the Back of My Leg?

Why Does My Sciatica Cause Pain Down the Back of My Leg?

Since the easing of restrictions, we’ve been seeing lots of patients in Form & Function Physical Therapy with extreme back pain caused by sciatica, with a pain shooting down the back of their legs.  

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

This pain could be sciatica.

Our PTA, Jim, said: “I would be extremely surprised if at least 10 people didn’t walk, or hobble with the severe pain sciatica causes, into the clinic each week with this very complaint.”

This blog post covers this regular question, and everything you’d need to know about sciatica, including: 

  • What is sciatica? 
  • What causes sciatica? 
  • How do I ease sciatica? 

All our little health secrets are great for anyone, but they are essential reading for anyone aged 30+, and especially for those that are looking to get more active now.  

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 behaviours or factors can raise your risk of developing sciatica. The most common factors for developing sciatica include the following: 

  • As 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 disc? 

A disc is a small fluid-filled sac that sits between the bones in your back, you have lots of these. It’s often better to think of them as little jam doughnuts (little potentially painful jam doughnuts!) and their purpose is to protect the bones in your back as you move.  

As you bend forwards, whether this is whilst 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. For example, imagine if you squeeze a jam doughnut, the jam inside will move away from where you’re squeezing.

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 (much like the jam doughnut we talked about!) However, instead of having sticky jammy fingers that can be cleaned, 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 the pain? 

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 therefore provide less support to the already problematic and painful area.  

Limiting the amount of time that you spend sitting can help too. I know what you’re going to say… ‘sitting doesn’t make it worse’, but we find that many clients 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 expert tips to help you ease your sciatica pain…  

1. Don’t stop walking 

Continue gentle exercise as soon as you can – anything that gets you 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. 

2. Fix 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.  

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.  

Try leaving the car at home and walking to work, the shops, or to visit family… CLICK HERE to read about why you should walk and how to do it properly.   


3. Alternate heat and ice therapy  

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.  

4. Stretch it out! 

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.  

5. Physical therapy 

Expert advice, exercises, and hands-on treatment provided by a physical therapist can help improve sciatica and chronic back pain, as well as improve posture and strengthen your back muscles. 

Would you like to talk to a physical therapist? 

We realise some people want more than just some free health tips… That’s why we offer expert advice about the worry and frustration of sciatica and chronic back pain! 

Here are just a few of the things you will learn in one of our Discovery Visits sessions:   

  1. What is the underlying cause of your back pain? (hopefully nothing too serious!)  
  2. Roughly, how long will it take to fix my problem?  
  3. What to do to help – which doesn’t include painkillers, resting or surgery etc.  
  4. What other, natural, drug-free methods are there to speed up recovery alongside treatment?  

Our discovery visit sessions are great for anyone that may be “unsure” if physical therapy is right for them, and they give you the opportunity to ask questions and see for yourself if we can help you. 

We’ve got 5 Discovery Visit sessions available this week. If you would like one of our limited taster sessions, please get in touch with the clinic using the contact details included below, and mention to the person who answers the phone that you would like to see a physical therapist for a $35 Discovery Visit. 


Try to get into good, healthy habits as quickly as possible – starting today, in fact you’ve picked one up already by reading this blog! In doing so, you’re going to give yourself the best chance you can of improving your Sciatica, back pain, and of being active, healthy and happy.  

Click here to access our FREE Back Pain guide… it’s full of useful hints and tips to help relieve your pain and get you more active. 


We’re here to help… 

If you’re in pain and would like to talk to us about getting some help, some specialist advice, or if you are looking for a diagnosis, remember we are always here to help you…. and we’re offering you the chance to have your first session with a physical therapist for only $35. 

If you would like to get one of our limited discovery visit session, please click here to complete our inquiry form or CALL us on (888) 619-2885. 

P.S. Do you know someone with aches in their back?  

Who do you know that is always telling you about their aches and pains? We would love to help them live a pain-free life too.   

That person could be someone who you live with, work with, or an extended friend or family member, who is maybe suffering with some kind of ache or pain that we can fix. 

Forward this blog post full of health tips on to them. Even better, if you refer someone to come and see us at the clinic, you’ll be entered into our ‘Referral for Rewards’ prize draw, to say a huge thank you.


Interesting Image

 If you aren't sure what's causing your back pain CHECK THIS VIDEO OUT!

The self-test for Sciatica

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